Lord of Miracles

A ruined cathedral, partially buried by lava rock, against a background of blue sky, clouds, and tree-covered hills.

Paricutin Cathedral – Photo credit: Daniel Tapia. Some rights reserved.

In 1943, two Mexican towns were consumed by a sudden yet gradual volcanic eruption. All of the townspeople’s lives were spared, together with most of the nearby cathedral.

Lord of Miracles

the north tower thrusts toward heaven
a gnarled and knobby index finger
jabbing, accusing,
hissing, “You did not lay me low.

Oh, you tried,
on the day you wrapped your
gentle, burning arms
around my brother and me.
You reached up, and you held me,
and you pulled my stone
toward yours,
yet still I stand.”

Its sibling to the south says nothing,
its throat and mouth having plunged
to mingle with the jagged tumble
of dark lava-rock
surrounding and permeating
the cathedral that was,
the sacred place that is,
sixty-five years after
God’s hot embrace.

Behind those brothers –
one tall, one reduced
to stubby fingers reaching up,
an open hand to receive the gifts
of the sky – is the chapel
with three walls and no top.
It too is ready
to accept heaven’s favors
even if they descend from above
as a slow avalanche of fire.

Pilgrims fill the chapel –
seekers dressed in yellow and red,
in green as vibrant as the brush
that ekes out life upon this
snaggy, igneous landscape.
They come for the icon enshrined within –
el Señor de los Milagros.

And were there ever miracles here?
Was it love that was raining down
when the people of two towns
lost their homes,
yet thanks to the slow tenderness
of God’s scorching grasp,
not a single soul lost her life?

El Señor hangs upon his tree –
the ruin at which he eventually arrived –
as the women who loved him weep.
He seems to gaze upward
at the similar cross
that sits proudly atop the northern spire.
In the late afternoon sun
the tower’s stone and brick skin is black
and brown, tan and red like flame,
like human flesh.

And in the sunlight,
it stands.