Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ARCHITECT (1), by KAREN SWENSON

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THE ARCHITECT (1), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The only places I can find you
Last Line: Forms most faithfully the face of god.
Subject(s): Architecture & Architects; Churches; Faith; Fathers & Daughters; Cathedrals; Belief; Creed

The only places I can find you,
besides the acre outside Fargo
where you lie with my mother,
are the places you made:
the dome you designed at twenty-four,
the chapel on the right side
of the Fifth Avenue altar,
the vaulted ceiling of stars
arranged for a night of revelation -
the birth of Christ, the conversion of Saul.

My atheist father,
I come to your churches -
sit with the dead in a dark pew -
because alive I had no father
under the dome
in the chapel
beneath the stars
just a man corked into his booze bottle.

Beneath your silent dome I puzzle the split
that rived you like a lightning scar.
Were you the man who thought Hitler
right about the Jews
or the one whose mind spun through
Bach's ecstasy of fugal celebrations?
But you were neither a good nor evil sorcerer -
Gandalf nor Saruman -
just the Wizard of Oz manipulating
illusion behind a curtain.

Under the vault of your stars,
I hear you in the colorless despair of vodka
raging against our common lot,
"When I die, who will know I lived?"
Immortality being man-made
as the stained glass of Chartres
that hues Mary blue out of glass,
you are recalled from death by your stars
to those who, anonymous in their devotions,
have never forgotten you.

Before your altar blazing with Byzantine colors,
I watch worshipers kneel,
praying before the beauty of your disbelief.
Perhaps they would find in your paradox
a proof for His presence -
that it is the atheist who
forms most faithfully the face of God.

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