Saturday, 11 April 2009

In religious caves beneath the burning fires

This began in central Turkey, visiting caves carved out of a volcanic earth called tuff, but seemed fitting for Easter. Monastic communities have lived in the Turkish caves for thousands of years and lots of them are still brightly painted. It's a shock to go into such alien houses and see such familiar images as George and the dragon, Mary and Jesus.

My cave

The painter’s preparing woad, cochineal and madder,
I’m getting the angels done at last.

Next door they have George and the serpent at the end of the bed,
Mark, Luke and John above
and Mary over the entrance.
They wake in the middle of their prayers.

I’m the fresco in my cave,
no prayer but me, my pile of habits, socks,
it’s as tiring as mixing yellow horse shit
with yellow earth for olive trees.

As the pigeons roost and swifts come out around the chapel top,
we climb and eat supper with the last supper,
sing to doves of doves,
walk with animals last seen in Eden.

Then it’s darker outside than in
and swifts turn to bats,
which fly in your hair and your mouth
as the devil does,

those with painted caves go inside
to see themselves in prayer.


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