Saint Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco:
to Belluschi, Nervi, Kepes, Lippold

With four feet planted on four standpoints
and cocked like a helmet, a shield, or a sacred heart,
she lifts the tonnage of her concrete roof
and levers it toward a soaring glassy crest—
sun-blaze, blood-blaze, leaf-blaze, sea-blaze.
She fuses four energies into a true cross
that niters shavings of outdoor daylight
down through the apse to a Shaker-table altar.

Overhead mounts a maze of honeycomb hexagons
as crazed as the salt plain where Lot’s fool wife
turned her face homeward, sealed herself away.
Inside the shell, gathered from on high,
a blessing, glittering in a cloud of light,
collects above the core of worship.

This tabernacle lifts up all offerings—
stone, words, light, music—
into the cradleweight of mild Mother Church,
tenderly hoisted there by hands of men.

You who enter this sanctuary,
Whether to stand or kneel,
Take comfort from the mystery
Of dedicated artifice.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 6 Number 4, on page 50
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