Nov/Dec 2020 • Vol. XLII No. 6 Poetry |

We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes

Many are working to scrape Chartres’ high windows of their scalelike soot. It’s hard to match, in this dimness, the pictures I’ve held in my mind with what they are pictures of. Hard to see under its glass case, this veil —  some bone-colored, disintegrating sheerness. Once, it saved this city. Once, with armored invaders closing in — someone uncased it — the real veil under which the Virgin gave hot birth —  carried it to the high wall of the city to wave its milky shapeliness until the army, understanding, turned around in terror of it. I love this story, the cool wind moving through this light cloth, warriors running from the slightest possibility of birth-scent —  the veil like a glint of artic ice that cools and holds back the rising water. And I have sailed the seas to come here, meaning I have flown over the rising sea to be closer to my idea of here. I look up at the stained glass — its Madonna looks to me benevolent. Inside the

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Mary Szybist's collection Incarnadine (Graywolf Press) was recently nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry. She is also the author of Granted (Alice James Books), which was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

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