Frescoes

I was caught completely unawares.
Linda said the church at Sous-Parsat
was worth a look. We drove a circling route
that took in Bourganeuf and bought some bread
to later spread with fruit beneath the trees
beside a source of water from the hill;
cheeses, cucumbers chopped and chilled with juice,
tomatoes on the vine, bottled beer.

Before that though she took us through the door,
a portal filled with shadows like a dream
you only half remember as you wake.
I expected all the usual things;
a faded pastel Virgin looking down
as if in expectation of rebuke,
an alter screen of oak where woodworm drilled
graffiti, unaware of sacraments,
centuries of dust and disillusion.

But what we came upon was like a shaft
of light, a clap of thunder suddenly 
unleashed, a pasture full of sunflowers
glimpsed through the window of a train,
the way your heartbeat catches at the sight.
The walls, vaults, the ceiling set alight
to tell the stories, even though our atheist
ways reject these things, we know beat through us
like a pulse, a pause for meditation,
constant, unavoidable, only sensed 
as breathing is, or guilt, or love.