My hotel window opens to rooftops,
to the clanging of trams below,
the sound of a Glockenspiel from one church
or another in the Alte Stadt, perhaps
the one I lit candles in, kneeled in,
an unbeliever. But the light slanting
through the stained glass Lamb
turned the holy water
into a rainbow I must touch,
my fingers remembering the gospel of ritual.
The cobblestoned streets are treacherous
for jet-lagged ankles but this,
this is home: white-clothed tables,
white plates, wine golden in glasses—
even the house fronts gilded
by evening’s light.
I had forgotten the churches—
the Altstadter Nicolaikirche,
St. Jodokus—white-washed walls,
murals of stern angels, soaring
buttresses that draw the eye upward.
Every object gleams golden—
the altar from Antwerp,
the polished, upright wooden pews.
Stained glass saints look down
with sorrow, with understanding.
Familiar voices, my conference group,
ordinary language reduced
to whispers that fade in and
out as shoes scuff along the red runner
to the nave. We duck through
a narrow stone tunnel
where hooded monks once made
their silent way to the monastery,
to the inner garden, a bare lawn, walls
900 hundred years old, the tunnel lowering,
I wake, startled, drawn to the window,
someone calling to a dog
barking in the street below,
while high on the hill, the tower
of Schloss Sparrenburg glows gold
in the dark hours before morning.