We were there to have our picture taken
to promote the little church’s Christmas program.
My few previous visits have always been at night;
this was at midday, when the sun was streaming
through the saintly scenes in the stained-glass.
This was medieval television: pictures brighter
than paintings that themselves were a step up from
laboriously illustrated and illuminated manuscripts
read aloud by tonsured aesthetes in sack cloth.
Gregorian chant, plainsong echo faintly high overhead
from a century ago and centuries before, punctuated
by German tanks and artillery rumbling closer to Reims,
until finally, the great cathedral bleeds a tempest
of rubble and shattered mythology, and where stood
stone and art, birds and weather fly in and take over.
I saw Chagall’s great glass triptych, bluer than sky,
more emotional than mythology, perhaps too
spiritual for a church, even a cathedral, especially
a cathedral. I sat in this little church in Canada
on the day of the photos, immersed in Chagall’s
glorious heaven, more there than here, more swept
into the past than left in the hard pew and chatter
as the traffic rumbled by, rumbled by, rumbled by.