Some have in them the deluge
And not the ark; the agitation
Of wingless angels throughout
The pathways of the world.

It is not the path which just happens,
The thought beneath the onslaught
On breathing beings heavy or light,
Love burning love in a new way of dying.

A gently swaying, slightly unstable rhythm
Recycles the exact, spiraling pose
Of the summer part of the temple,
When the rays of the moon began

To prepare the air to receive those
Of the sun, and to decorate the sea
With an oscillating swarm of pointed wings,
The forty-two virtues which make the soul

Safe for paradise. The rigid floor
Became a mantle of supple fabric
Climbing out of the streets,
A sky-clad jewel at each knot.

A field of giving and a fewness of wishes.
Each bird in thin casings
Of crystal touched by sound
Flies free from its broken casement,

Making a good friend of a climbed
Mountain. There is no actual need
Of wilderness, a tiny patch of brown
Earth and a few scattered pebbles

Is the bed of a future street.
For all things, even these lapsing passions,
Like tooled gold, are beautiful
Through his placing.

What shall my west hurt me?
All but one of the seven joys
Of the virgin fully awakened
In her extended, foreshortened hand.

The stream-enterer, reborn
More sensitive, in one of the many
Heaven-worlds; the once-returner
And the non-returner, passing

And not re-passing that lowest
Honey-coloured green
Feeding hungry ghosts on the evening
And morning knowledge of the angels.


Medbh McGuckian

The title is from a Spanish word meaning the tiny patch on a wall behind an altar where the tabernacle is. Usually frescoed. I was reading about el Greco's paintings, how gravity is reversed and what looks like disaster as Elizabeth Bishop says could really be the best thing for the world despite the personal tragedies suffered. HOW HUMAN SACRIFICE can have a spiritual fallout. Look already at our decomissioning here, a direct result of the massacre. But that's not in the poem, just them and their salvation. As Wilfred Owen writes, "Some say God caught them before they fell."