I am in Bavaria, with Constance.
She is Catholic, a native, and
Her name ends in stanza –
A way of speaking, not standing.
We visit the churches, to see inside her head.
Round, squat, a heavy dome with sloping roof
And everywhere a riot of colour.
It’s strange having so much of it in a church
Outside the muted rose of old windows,
Or so I think, and so I think here.
For it’s not muted – pink and gold is everywhere.
Little cherubs, the Baroque style,
Curls and squiggles on every surface –
The bad taste fairy gone mad.
I know what would fit, but don’t like to say
Although I can see it in my atheist’s eye:
A velvet Elvis behind the altar would fit right in.
He winks at me, multiplies my stifled giggles.
I am sent outside, because I cannot behave.
I am in London, with Constance.
We are at Westminster, and I, the ex-pat Kiwi,
Am showing what I think a cathedral should be
From my stance outside the Church.
Certain in my disbelief, but certain also
In the loveliness of the spires
Grey pillars soaring, decoration only
In the plain fluted columns well out of reach,
The solemn darkness of the old stone.
Space and science, a miracle of architecture.
If there was a God he would be here, I think.
But Constance is unimpressed –
She misses colour, the dreadful cherubs,
Doesn’t like Gothic, thinks it’s boring.
Here there are no distractions, I tell her.
Here you must listen to the priest, take in his words.
She looks at me and grins.
Exactly, says Constance, the good Catholic.
Who wants to do that?