Cathedral Saint-Louis

cathedralstlouis

A long time since its construction and centuries longer since its namesake reigned,

its triple steeples still rise above the square, dappled by the morning sun

as hordes of sleepy tourists and locals who might not miss them much

if they took a day off line up for their morning pastries and au lait,

and already outside the commotion is building, the music of the spheres

a little off key, its brassy tune clashing with the brash shouts of hucksters

out for the early mark, but as I pass through and the doors swing close

behind me, the sacred silence engulfs me, and it is indeed as if I have

crossed into the otherworld, despite the electrical wires announcing that

the church serves as current place of worship, not historical relic only,

and the plaques and boxes and racked brochures for sale

reminding all that not even here does commerce cease, and though

I’m not Catholic, I too give in—drop coins in the box and light

a candle in hope of some little glow of enlightenment, and Louis

would have presumed me innocent until his branch of the Inquisition

made its inquiries and determined otherwise, and would probably

have dealt like Jesus in the temple with the mess of humanity

out front, or had his minions do it for him, more likely. Still, as far

as medieval rulers go, he was at least less awful than his peers, and,

if we can trust the words of his friend and confidante Jean de Joinville,

a positive influence on law and religion, famous for his

charitable disposition and his possession of a fragment—

an expensive one at that—of Christ’s True Cross.  These days,

that kind of belief, that kind of fervor, has waned away, but

still amid the cool white stones of its monuments, one can, for a fleeting

moment, feel the circulation of saints and spirits along the aisles

and ambulatories under  the tent of colonial-colored banners.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

 

New Orleans Wednesday Morning

At 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, New Orleans is stretching

and waking up slowly, a solitary barge drifting lazily by

on the lazy river as the bloody-egg-yolk sun peeks

out red-eyed and bleary from its cloud-blankets;

the streetcars on Canal stand idling, blinking their eyes,

one finally crawling forward. A few cars cross

on Magazine, a bus sits waiting at the curb,

a garbage truck lumbers down an alley.

In half an hour, one runner, one cyclist,

the first pedestrians venturing out,

haphazardly clothed as if they dressed in the dark.

Now, the sun brightens, and the ripples

on the surface of the water glitter like diamonds,

or, well, rhinestones at least; shadows from

lampposts and palmetto trunks stripe

streets bathed in patches of yellow glow.

A timeless scene, but a cable hanging loosely

outside my 36th-floor room swings in the wind

like the pendulum of a towering clock,

a reminder that the hours keep ticking forward.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper