We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes

Mary Szybist

Many are working to scrape Chartres' high windowsof their scalelike soot.It's hard to match, in this dimness, the picturesI've held in my mind with what they arepictures of. Hard to seeunder its glass case, this veil—some bone-colored, disintegrating sheerness.Once, it saved this city. Once, with armored invadersclosing in—someone uncasedit—the realveil under which the Virgingave hot birth—carried it to the high wall of the city to waveits milky shapelinessuntil the army, understanding, turned around interror of it.I love this story,the cool wind moving through this lightcloth, warriors runningfrom the slightest possibility of birth-scent—the veil like a glint of arctic icethat cools and holds back the rising water.And I have sailed the seas to come here, meaningI have flown over the rising sea tobe closer to my idea of here. I look upat the stained glass—its Madonna looks to mebenevolent.Inside the glass panels of her window she floatsin the icy blue restored to her as lightfalls burnt-orange through her feet.Once an angry silver cross hungfrom my mother's neck.When she was dying she knewher limbs would go firstso she kept asking me to check herfeet. I pressed my palmsto her high arches. Yes, cold, I said,but didn't pull them into my lap, didn'thold them.Her feet went cold under the sheet,then the rest of her.Now I hold them in my mind like an amulet.What is what to what.What am I doing in the dumb lovely feel of this lightas it falls through this Madonnaas it falls through the sea's darkening bluesblues so dark now they can't reflectthis light the ice was oncearmor to.

Feature Date


Selected By

Share This Poem

Print This Poem

Mary Szybist is most recently the author of Incarnadine. She teaches at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Nov/Dec 2020

Gambier, Ohio

Kenyon College

The David F. Banks Editor
Nicole Terez Dutton

Managing Editor
Abigail Wadsworth Serfass

Associate Editor
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky

Poetry Editor
David Baker

Building on a tradition of excellence dating back to 1939, the Kenyon Review has evolved from a distinguished literary magazine to a pre-eminent arts organization. Today, KR is devoted to nurturing, publishing, and celebrating the best in contemporary writing. We’re expanding the community of diverse readers and writers, across the globe, at every stage of their lives.

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.