Cathedral Morning

Like a plucked chicken in a butcher’s window,
Christ hangs pale limbed, arms akimbo,
between pied windows and twisting columns where
women chant prayers to El Senor,
lord, master, conquistador,
wrists oozing wax rosettas, lurid petals.
Remembering the history of Latin America
as taught by Mormon Sunday school teachers,
Quetzaquatl, a feathered god of rainforests,
pumas, the fungal earth of the jungle,
turns into a walker of deserts,
who descended on the ancient Americans
in the year 33AD after three days and nights
of continual darkness. Turns out they were
Catholics all along. Plaster saints
with painted lips and eyelashes lift
arms in stunned expressions of admiration
amidst the decaying roses, jasmine, ylang ylang,
the must of piety, enchanted colonials.
Outside men polish shoes under sandstone arches,
everyday devotion. Women with pleated skirts
and embroidered shawls vending popcorn,
cotton candy, plantain chips dusted with salt
await the last prayer, the final refrain of the organ,
and the crowds pour hungrily into the streets
and the tropical sunshine ablaze with hibiscus,
orchids, the dusty leaves of palms,
and a girl selling candles in the doorway,
black braids glistening in a square of light.


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