English poetry

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Dickeyville Grotto

The priest never used blueprints, but worked all
The many designs out of his head.

Father Wilerus,
Transplanted Alsatian,
Built around
This plain Wisconsin

Redbrick church
A coral-reef en-
Crustation meant,
The brochure says,

To glorify America
And heaven simul-
Taneously. Thus:
Mary and Columbus

And the Sacred Heart
Equally enthroned
In a fantasia of quartz
And seashells, broken

Dishes, stalactites
And stick-shift knobs
No separation
Of nature and art

For Father Wilerus!
He’s built fabulous blooms
bristling mosaic tiles
Bunched into chipped,

Permanent roses –
And more glisteny
Stuff than I can catalogue,
Which seems to he the point:

A spectacle, saints
And Stars and Stripes
Billowing in hillocks
Of concrete. Stubborn

Insistence on rendering
Invisibles solid. What’s
More frankly actual
Than cement? Surfaced,

Here, in pure decor:
Even the railings
Curlicued with rows
Of identical whelks,

Even the lampposts
And birdhouses,
And big encrusted urns
Wagging with lunar flowers!

A little dizzy,
The world he’s made,
And completely
Unapologetic, high

On a hill in Dickeyville
So the wind whips
Around like crazy.
A bit pigheaded,

Yet full of love
For glitter qua glitter,
Sheer materiality;
A bit foolhardy

And yet sly sparkle
He’s made matter giddy.
Exactly what he wanted,
I’d guess: the very stones

Gone lacy and beaded,
An airy intricacy
Of froth and glimmer.
For God? Country?

Lucky man:
His purpose pales
Beside the fizzy,
Weightless fact of rock.

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Poem Dickeyville Grotto - Mark Doty