Church tourist

Here, where the Grimms once stayed

The church is neither hot nor cold
but place to wait till rain has eased:
these effigies have waited till time's
nothing: life of action, pain or tears,
or blink in geologic span.
This dormant woman and her man:

how many children did she bear?
Could she bear him she sleeps beside?

Some are stacked like supermarket
layers with a knight above each shelf;
below, more subtle things to gaze on:
sandstone toads on sandstone
corpses, keeping nit till Judgment Day
with worms that glide from cavities.

Though notices ban trespassers,
I slip the rope, trace writing on
each bier declaring faith that life's
mere pit-stop to eternity. The worms
are long and fat and sleek, making
Braille of eyes and cheeks, while toads
have taken take time off from
their inroads: food for thought.
The knights lie in between the worlds
of as things are and as they'll be.

On tree-sized pillars, painted shields
have faded out to shadows
like their bearers now defunct.
Swords, armour, spurs and other
tools of trade are rubbed to blunt
by visitors who've walked the aisles
through centuries, knelt prie dieux
down to grooves and gawked,
felt history and waited out the rain
to read the scraps of final hopes:
'Ich komme nicht zur Ruhe'
or 'Ich danke dir für alles'.

The writers of the Gothic script
are dumb at length, like those who
carved the wooden saint who holds
a model of this place named for her,
though the martial tone is buttressed
by another grave in here,
containing one world war's great
hero who made possible the next:
some tourists come to see and feel
that Titan's tomb. The church
attracts all kinds. Avoiding those,
I turn back to that pint-sized
figure even the Reformers left
for pity. Here, she looks a queen
and young: in fact, she was
till grief revealed what life
was worth and she gave all
she had to feed the poor.

Reflecting on the brutal way
the hierarchy treated her,
I see the logic of the place
she holds in this ambiguous space.
Born in murderous times among
such vicious things as men become
where power is at stake, she stands
among the metal, glass and stone,
the warm antipodes of hate.

Others will go in to wait until
the sun appears again to draw them
out, as it did me, though darkness
shrouds a dignity past counting.

Michael SharkeyMichael Sharkey iives at Armidale, New South Wales, and has published several collections of poems. His most recent book is The Sweeping Plain (Five Islands Press, 2007). 

Topic tags: Michael Sharkey, Here, where the Grimms once stayed, St Elisabeth's Church, Marburg, Hindenburg



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