dream your dreams
with open eyes
and make
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                -- t. e. lawrence

    riding with the sun, music and stories by david soubly

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Dom

i.


I stand too close.
The stones are all confusion.
Only the direction -- up, always up -- seems certain.
Narrowed saints leer.  Gargoyles crouch.
This blackened rock,
crusted with the centuries' sooted mantle --
should it fall,
would that the very earth should open,
provide a Roman burial.
Twin towers scratch the sky, declare their convex power:
How many times have they laughed down at us,
mere dots,
small lives insufficient to contain
this giant thing?
My eye roves from tower to tower,
faith-wrapped battlements tumble
across the huge face,
and inward I see
clamor of centuries
great press of years
time stretched and squeezed
labors long and deaths quick.
Rich men there were, and powerful, and always are,
to make such things
to bend lesser wills to such toil;
while women,
eyes ever on the earth
marked details --
raising young, tending hurts, keeping fires --
for some who might not return.


ii.


As I stand,
hearing afar the tap of hammer on stone
the groaning of mighty ropes
the prayers echoing through the unfinished shell
the present intrudes:
the ubiquitous immediate noise
swirling about the great feet:
street musicianed, roller-skating throng
(passing sidewalk artists
whose chalked Madonnas await the next rain
to drive the bright colors into the dust),
some indifferent
some playing the lottery,
gaining a slice of heaven for a chance at a new car,
some standing, piercing the present fog,
hearing the beast's great breath.


iii.


Ten thousand years ago
tribes watched the fickle sun,
scored progress on cave walls;
while on this hill 
a late spring breeze 
caressed nodding flowers
chased butterflies through long grass 
spilled the lewd perfume.


iv.


Maybe the flowers still nod, inside,
pressed under mosaic tile
(these Madonnas will not scare).
Here, people speak softly, tread carefully,
know that clerestories trap all echoes,
hold them forever.
The dead penetrate this place
and there are eyes in the vaults,
and spirits caper across the bony roof.
Gold and steel and stone and glass:
the German core built this
thing that imprisons it.


v.


Near the door,
bobbing on pained feet
an old red-robed priest
shyly confronts the throng,
while tied round his neck
a box marked "F
ür der Dom"
teases the occasional coin
from pious and guilty.
Each day he performs this tiny miracle
and gains his seat amid wise counsels.

 

vi.


Halfway up the southern spire
three hundred feet above the plain
a huge bell hangs.
Twelve tons, they say:
the ropes groaned indeed to haul this up,
here to hunch in shadow
a mammoth shape
prodded to action ever and anon
sending its immense boom across the spaces
until an unseen day
when the changing of the land
will hurl it down
a final clang
to fracture the fracturing earth.


 

vii.


Down the bloody Rhine the bombers screamed
streaking past the hunkered beast
sighting by its immensity
hurling their bright fire into the burning city
and winging north.
Sometimes bombs would find its granite feet,
explode about its shoulders.
These it ignored:
Not by these stings will the land convulse:
not by might of arms will the beast be buried.


 

viii.


Brick fields surround the great old church
and from their very edges
I look across the stone expanse
and glimpse the thing at last,
contain its unfinished immensity.
For an instant only:
the years intrude, the stones tumble,
and suddenly all else vanishes --
shops, musicians, vendors, brick, all --
for an instant the Dom stands
brightly on its hill
while all about, here and to great distances
grass waves
flowers bob
butterflies dance
and the river rushes on.
Now farther the Dom recedes,
farther and farther, small and bright,
to the vanishing point.
A blink, and all returns:
the great grey shape swims forward through the mist,
defines itself against the raucous crowd
hardens its lines with smell of blutwurst
flatulence of beer:
the pulsing tumult of its stewardship.


 

ix.


Across the ocean, in my home
I pause:  I see it now:
This is what it is:
Earlier today,
crunching through autumn fields,
smelling summer's faded dusty riot
I felt it first
(as sunlight blazed brittle cornstalks,
as pumpkins brightened in the rows):
tiny spires scratched my thought
and all returned:
the priest, the bell, the crowds, the noise,
the giant hunkered gargoyled creature thrusting from the
   
  earth;
and tearing from the earth, it rose
and rising, ever rising, met the sun
and all blazed down and scored my eyes
with painful joyous brilliance
as the fields danced in the darkening breeze
and mice gathered seeds for the winter night.