At Basilica Notre-Dame



To say you cannot stand inside the sky and still see its blue
is a way of understanding longing. But here in Penne-d’Agenais,
my favorite lesson doesn’t hold: step over the threshold and
you are all in, Hail Queen in Latin exclaiming from its underside
above a carousel of vibrant glass. It isn’t ancient, but it is pleasing
for a Sunday. Nor is it really a basilica—just a church no one troubles
to diminish. Our guide jabs his thumb at the confessional smiling, and
I mime looking at my wrist, mouth, How much time do they have?
Nothing is very beautiful. They say it’s where a shepherd sheltering
in the ruins prayed for a goat and one appeared. Our pilgrimage is
for foie gras and wine. All day I think of how last week when I left
someone, I turned and they were still there waving. Of Plath writing,
The train leaves a line of breath. In truth, I’m desperate for a world I can
touch: limestone dissolving along the cave’s joints, parched earth that
extends the salvia’s roots. Not even we would exist without constraints.
The last time we saw each other, we had sex in the extra room then
made the bed to look untouched. You smoothed your hand over it like a
benediction. I crossed into the open air, your eyes flints of mica through
the glass. The far / Fields melt my heart. I would have left my whole body
there. Would scatter what was left over the plush acres of tobacco in
the Lot-et-Garonne, over the cherry trees hung low with fruit, to know
how it would feel to love this wildly, without purpose, and be forgiven.


[Purchase Issue 27 here.] 


Michelle Lewis is the author of Animul/Flame and the forthcoming Spare. Her poetry has appeared in places like Bennington Review, Indiana Review, Copper Nickel, Hunger Mountain, and Denver Quarterly.

At Basilica Notre-Dame

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