Living by the Law

Soaring chains of gold

In the “innocent” thickening air

Of suffocating thoughts thought

A million times before.

Like a noose around new life

Voice answers voice,

Haunting and beautiful,

Soaring ever higher;

A choir of voices,

Toward the hypnotizing eyes of saints

In their gilted heavy frames

Glaring on the masses as they dip and mumble,

Dip and mumble,

Genuflecting candles in their hands.

Taunting, laughing, winking lights.

So many souls at work with inappropriate waxy tools.

So many dead souls, turned to dust, but beautifully entombed

As if reverence keeps them on the edge of life.

Draped with our sins,

We rake ourselves over the cross

(When it’s already done!)

In desperate hope of someday being happy:

Not yanked around by our own, and other’s, steep demands.

Instead, we are trapped  by our stern god

Who demands his rites.

That ever thickening incense

Those black robes that never fit us right.

Climb the 374 steps of labored good intentions:

The self-scouring steps to what is surely more enlightenment?

But the vibrating, body-splitting of the bell tolls that

We are all undone.

Guilty guilty guilty

Failed failed failed

Have we have mistaken candles for the sun?

Have we worshiped death and forgotten the tomb?

Have we have flung ourselves into the doom?

Have we mistaken love for fear so soon?

I wrote the bones for this poem back in 2019 while I was visiting the “Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery” in Kyiv, Ukraine, but I wasn’t able to return to take the photos until 2021. The Lavra is a large complex with a cathedral, a 316 foot tall bell tower and an underground series of catacombs and cells for monks. The whole experience of being in such an old and storied place was extraordinary, but creepy. The awe and heaviness of it all created in me a feeling I still haven’t been able to shake.

As I have since carried around the uneasy feeling that the Lavra gave me, it has begun to sort itself out…at least sort of. When I wrote this poem, at the time I didn’t really know what it was that I was writing about, I just tried to capture the mood while hoping I would grow into its meaning someday.

Guilt…? Shame…? Trying to prove that I’m good enough. Sometimes I carry these feelings around without even noticing, until I become so heavy with the need to earn love that I fall down under it. This poem was a little about that struggle.