destroyed by fire in Berlin, 1945


The smooth, bald duomo of Saint Matthew’s head
suggests the simple life, as does the stunned
and disbelieving look that pulls his face.
Still, the angel guides his meaty hand
in penning gospel past his comprehension.
The inspiration looks like pure command,

which saves him from the doubleness of doubt.
Once, during mass, I watched the veiny feet
of Christ start welling where the nail went in.
But I was young; the blood soon went away.
The angel, saint, and tandem hand of God
burned in a concrete Flak Tower late one May.


I scan the Post, refresh, and watch the flames
in pictures only. The amber glow of dawn
holds well past noon as light sifts through the smoke
of fires up north. Refresh. The death toll clears
its record. People float in swimming pools,
watching their houses burn. The blaze moves on.

Some houses stand amid a sea of ash,
the headline says. An aerial photograph
confirms it, too. Fire analysts suspect
building materials, arbitrary winds
. . .
In another shot, a woman cups her face.
She may not lose her childhood home. She may.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 37 Number 1, on page 23
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