Wednesday, November 20, 2013

St Catherine of Brussels

Legend of shining beauty
Of sparkling intellect, deep learning
And perfect faith, the kind that leads to death,
Be with us now.

Although the house they built for you
Once gleaming white, is clothed in grime
With streaks of soot climbing the walls
Pray for us, Catherine

Even if your windows' ironwork
Is turning brown, and your great doors are locked
And heavy lorries pass you by,

Adding their mote of blackness
To your walls, and to our soft grey lungs
Shaking our eardrums and your stones,
Pray for our filthy souls.

Although you never did exist
Save as a paragon of faith
Exemplar of the power of Truth
Pray for us, holy saint.

You whose keen wit cut through
The sentences of slaves of power
Those halitotic rantings of Maxentius’ priests
Until they bowed

Bowed to your sweeter reason
One by one, came over to your side
So that the tyrant, smelling treason
Issued two words

His own short sentence that would
Liberate their souls from servitude,
That simple way the tyrant has
To save his world,

Slicing through the Gordian knot
Of theologians' necks, where blood
Speaks the immeasurable mystery
Of life itself.

And how he scourged your silky back,
Imprisoned you, and when his wife
Came to you, and believed, she too
Was not spared death.

We know now that all this was
Myth making, legend, fairy tale.
We know you never broke the wheel he made
To break your spine.

No sharp sword sheared your beauty
And stilled your red persuasive tongue.
But we know too by their foul breath
That tyrants live.

We know that through we left your side
Escaped the confines of your church,
Broke free of dogma, saw through the myth
We're still not free

Of tyranny, that still has
Lethal power, but this time not just those
Who disagree with their world view
But all the world

Now all the world must suffer,
Suffer and die, at the dictators' whim.
Although they have no throne, no presence
Yet their rule

Is everywhere. Wherever
There is greed, they set up shop.
They've built their palaces
Within our minds.

So Catherine, though we left your side
Although your doors are locked
Although we treat you with neglect
Although you don't exist
Still pray for us.

© Richard Lawson


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