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Jacob Bathanti

Looking at Churches

From the window of a metallically appointed nightclub –

Chrome-clad go-go dancers shimmying in minimalist cages –

I can stand and watch the rain patter-patter

On the sandstone of a 400-year old cathedral. Water

Pouring down thin streams through iron tubes

Set like oboes, clarinets, recorders in the mouths of gargoyles

Twisted up on the ramparts like old men,

Rendered obsolescent with the coming of better plumbing,

Aluminum gutters, mechanical threshers and reapers,

Plows drawn by tractors, foreign brand names etched across scarlet steel.

They look sadly down, brows furrowed and more

Than furrowed by a sculptor’s caprice: the Gothic taste

For the shivery savor of frightful ugliness,

And watch as raindrops pour in a coalescent stream

Conjoining with the street; they stare across at the cathedral façade.

San Sebastian looks impassively towards heaven,

Arrows protruding from him with all the insistence of phalluses,

Foisted upon the virgin young marble man.

Where floodlights have lit up the sprawling ornamentation,

Caught the saint in his ravished humiliation

(Awaiting the coming of another canonized virgin for a nurse),

The rushing rain turns golden – captured, too, for an instant, and then gone

While he waits, looking up to heaven for some succor.

He is not praying for rescue from the Romans,

But only imploring God for everyone to stop gawking at him.

I avert my eyes, knock back my whiskey sour.

Looming down from the churchtops, the monstrous graven musicians

Swallow the endless torrents, and cannot turn away.


Jacob Bathanti is from Boone, North Carolina.  He is a senior at Wake Forest University, where he writes for the school paper, the Old Gold & Black. His poems have been published in Bay Leaves and Only Connect: The 2007 Charlotte Writers Club Anthology.  Another poem is forthcoming in the January edition of Sojourners.

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