This gothic cathedral was once a spiritual home.
Priests dabbed foreheads with holy water and
incense wafted to high ceilings and
parishioners chewed on wafers and said:
“Peace be with you.”
That was before tent cities spread under the bridge
and people wandered the streets at night,
sleeping in dirty blankets: when you saw them
in daylight, you saw sores ooze on arms and legs,
vacant eyes, gaunt faces, looking sad, like they
were between this world and the next:
We found them frozen on winter mornings,
their lips a chalky blue and eyes wide with fright.
The cathedral crumbled and stained-glass shattered;
squatters moved in and lit fires in trash cans:
orange light glowed onto the dark street.
We knew they shot dope – we’d see them emerge
like skeletons on Hollow’s Eve with shirts dangling
over bony shoulders. They’d walk to the bodega
and buy cigarettes with dimes and nickels,
count them slowly as cashiers glared behind glass.
We remembered the cathedral from decades ago
and we thought of light and darkness, saints and sinners:
we thought of Jesus watching the weathered faces,
huddled in the cold and hastening their demise,
some dying in the pews, and we thought God surely
forgave them and, if Jesus walked, maybe they would’ve
become his apostles.
Cops came and cleared the cathedral and we saw
broken needles scattered on grimy floors.
We saw pictures of inside the church and we thought
about decades ago: how it was sacred space,
but was still sacred now, but instead of Spirit
conquering flesh, flesh conquered dying Spirit,
and we kept staring at the fading afternoon light
as the city spun so fast that it swallowed us whole.