Notre-Dame: Two poems celebrating the cathedral

'A Sonnet for Paris' by Mary O’Malley; 'The Bells of Notre-Dame' by Catherine Phil MacCarthy

The steeple of Notre Dame collapses as smoke and flames engulf the cathedral in Paris, France. Photograph: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

The steeple of Notre Dame collapses as smoke and flames engulf the cathedral in Paris, France. Photograph: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP/Getty Images

 

A Sonnet for Paris

This is beauty, arms open, reaching upwards.
At first the mind refuses it, but the fire
Is ravenous. It will have its sacrifice and does.
While it rages, the gold icon shimmers in kitchens,
On street corners, in bars from there to China.
The windows, the wash of light. Day in
Day out. Memory refuses it.

Let reason sleep with reason’s monsters.
This is Her day, Our Lady of Paris.
In the dead of night, the ruin shivers.
Its gargoyles climb down.
Statues in elegant robes roll up their sleeves
The flying buttresses put their shoulders
To the wheel. It burns. It rises.

Mary O’Malley

The Bells of Notre-Dame

Nine bells line the main aisle,
flaxen domes echo one another,
as visitors pour in,
rocked by each
newborn colossus
stood on oak beams,
cast in bronze with
its own design
and tone.

“Marie”, “Gabriel”, “Denis”,
parade along the queue –
“Et elle a conçu du Saint-Esprit.”
Hands caress the patina,
gauge the width
of the lip, test notes
rapping the rim.
Each chime stirs
the house

with an acoustic tone
pins a celebratory hum
of pandemonium,
heralds the North tower
hung with instruments again,
that mark the flow of hours
for how long more
from earth
across the skies?

Catherine Phil MacCarthy