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Poetry

Most days the labyrinth’s covered
up with folding chairs, but Fridays
it’s open even to unbelievers.

Our docent says the labyrinth is not a maze,
that the pilgrim cannot lose her way
coiling toward the center rose.

My pastor friend and I are chaperones,
here to help field-tripping kids
weave the ancient circuit that the masons

made without diversions or dead ends. “One pathway
in, the same path flowering out,”
the docent says, “so that you cannot stray.”

My friend instructs our group: “Release,
receive, return.” Kids wind along the stone
with palms upturned, seeking the peace

they’ve been told radiates from the roundels,
the buttresses, the crypts, the statues
of virgins, saints, apostles.

Above us, glaring from the western wall,
Christ the judge rides on a cloud
of glass, grabbing sinners for his hell,

the righteous for his heaven,
part of the gospel that the craftsmen
fractured into windowpanes.

Shining through the quatrefoil, the wounds
the glaziers cut and set
into Christ’s feet and hands,

sun pools blue and scarlet
on the floor, dappling the medallion
where, the legend goes, penitents

and priests walked on their knees.
Now anyone can walk here,
including the faithless, whom God always sees.

The kids circle the path, they pray
as if prayer was a right and not a grace,
they turn upon the way (my friend will say)

of the blest, those who can trust in Christ’s name.
He’ll remind us, “We’re pilgrims, not tourists,”
though the admission is the same.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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