An Arson of the Spirit

by William Doreski
Fire has ruined the bedrock chapel
monks haunted for hundreds of years.
The Cambrian granite walls
remain rigid enough to resist
nuclear war, but the famous
stained glass windows melted
and the wood truss roof collapsed.

I nose through the rubble in hopes
of collecting a relic
of puddled gold. But firefighters
have already combed the mess
for human remains and surely
bagged everything of value. No one
died, no priest has said mass
for twenty years, the structure
more a museum than a church.

I like the scorched blank walls,
the cinders of the altar,
the smears of colored glass beneath
gaping window-holes. No monks
survive to mourn the ruin,
their order disbanded after
half a dozen girls disappeared
and the corpse of one turned up
with vampire bites on the groin.

The cardinal hushed up the crime
but someone torched the chapel
two decades later because
the grief hung over the town
like a smut of sulfur dioxide.
At last I uncover something,
a tiny silver cross unscathed
by the heat. Not a crucifix
but a simple geometric shape
to accept a suffering Jesus.              

Protestants prefer the living Christ,
but whoever torched this structure
wanted to bury the history
that so poignantly inflames us,
the granite walls five hundred
million years old but grinning
as if created fresh this morning
when this godless day evolved.
William Doreski teaches writing and literature at Keene State College in New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Another Ice Age (AA Publications, 2007). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, Natural Bridge.

© 2009, William Doreski