Even from here, there is the aroma of the church.
One senses it long steps away,
while the bells ring wildly. The wideness
of the holy call, multi-toned, multilingual,
draws us inside. It is not alone the dried
boxwood or the paint on the icons
or the hundreds of candles.
It is not the building materials.
(Oh, yes, I sniffed these!)
It may be the heat of cramped toes
and feet released from boots
three times a day since the church went up,
or, before that, the soots of campfires
warming pilgrims who have searched for peace
in the tiny village church—
they say thousands since the forties.
Slightly sweet, with a sour note, like an herb,
not unpleasant, but strange,
a fusion over years of many mysteries,
yet as simple as our daily bread.
Listen: Out there a mallard called,
and half a dozen young followed
quietly in her wake,
near where the willow spilled
its new green skirts into the shallows.
Then the bells called and I answered.
Inside, an unseen hand pushed at my head,
until I bowed low.
The narrow taper someone gave me to hold
did not drip wax.
An old man in an old white shawl
spoke an older French,
and Jean-Marie translated thoughtfully:
The promises of holy text
belong to anyone who listens expectantly.
I wonder now if the odor is the trace
of an ancient manger,
not to be filed into a book and shelved,
but sheltered here to be breathed,
as frankincense, or worn,
as gold, as myrrh.
Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net