The Tree of Life

3:34 PM Marcellino DAmbrosio 2 Comments






In the corner of a city,
Often passed by and forgotten,
Lies a small chapel named “Saint Clair’s.”
You can find it behind a heavy, chapped wooden door,
Down an ancient, murky alley
And to the right of an old well-

Thick jade vines climb all eight sides
Of its aged and tired bricks.
It’s hard to tell,
But it could have been a baptistery.

There's no roof over Saint Clair’s,
No Gothic spires or marble façade.
The alter perhaps was once baroque,
With all manner of
Angels and saints and beasts
Carved deep around all its edges.
Its cracked and broken now.
Its middle says “IHS,”
Which means “Christ,” I think.
The letters mark the face of a sun.
Moss and dirt sit, packed
In its ray's weathered crevices.

The mosaic on the floor is beautiful.
It's made of broken grey cobble stones
And wild poppies, which I hear grow
Only right before summer.
Their petals push up past the
Once proud altar rail,
Approaching the sanctuary
With sacrilegious courage.
Cypress trees and pines form
Something of a canopy over the whole thing,
A canopy peppered with bright little holes
colored in sunlight; They are majestic stained glass

Curiously,
Out of the middle of the broken altar grows the sprout of a tree.
I looked later in books, but never found one that matched.
I do not know it's genus or its name, but
The only way to describe it is to say this:
Its bark was ancient bronze, long aged, green and dark.
Its leaves were gilded iron.

I felt a compulsion to pull a leaf from the lower branch,
And look, it broke right off,
Red golden sap poured out from the branch all over the altar.
The scent of herbs, spice, nectar and every medicine filled the air.

The sap was almost too warm to touch,
But not near so hot as the fruit.
The fruit was fire;
The color of burning poppies;
Smokeless; flickering upon the leaves.

Again, I felt a compulsion to take hold
Of one of these most beautiful miracles,
I reached out and was surprised
When a fiery ball fell into my open palm.

Just then, a swan, one of seven,
swept off the broken altar,
And called out to me in a brass, trumpet like voice:
“Oh take and eat, ye son of man,
For power burns upon your hand,
To bind up and release,
To lie down and give peace;
Your blood is shed and mixed with His,
To cover all the land.”

A great wind blew as I ate.
The fruit was bitter and so I wept,
And then it was sweet,
And so I slept,
And in my dream I said
“Amen.”

I've never quite seen or heard such a thing,
And yet It grows dim in the dusty paths of my mind
When I sit among my life’s companions and delight
In the sun’s warm caress.
but the swan’s last words to me
I hear still  in snowy winter when I wake
in the black depths of the night:
“the gates of hell shall not prevail.”
“the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

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2 comments:

  1. whoa. loved the peace and stillness until the swan flies off and trumpets...great imagery

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  2. 2nd to last stanza was my favorite. Really cool. Enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete