Notre Dame de Paris–Poem: La Rosace

Notre Dame

This photo from AFP/Getty Images shows that the organ and at least one of the rose windows survived the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on May 15, 2019.

It’s been almost a month since a devastating fire destroyed the roof, the spire, and some of the interior of the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I love the French Gothic cathedrals and especially the beautiful stained glass rose windows that ornament them. I will be forever grateful that I was able to visit Notre Dame some years ago, and that with my daughter’s encouragement, I climbed up the many stairs (worn over hundreds of years by the feet of reverent monks) to the roof and looked out over the city of Paris from that lofty and lovely aspect.

As part of an art history paper on rose windows (les rosaces, singular la rosace), I wrote this poem.

La Rosace

I catch my breath at sight of holy rose—
Glass softened into petals into men.
A garden of blue flowers (what flowers are those?)
with crimson marking all that God has been,
like drops of blood that mark the sacred way
from birth to ministry to Cross to mourn,
to morning’s glory marks the Lord’s new day.
Let our path follow, born and then reborn.
Behold the work of art, the art of God—
the radiant point, the center of the Earth.
The Earth on which we sigh and toil and plod
until as pilgrims we seek holy mirth—
A mystery, the Son’s light as a gift
of rest as eyes, souls, pilgrim praise we lift.

Poem: Once By the Atlantic (D-Day, June 6, 1944)

D-Day (Photo--US Army)
(Photo–US Army)

In five years when the world leaders gather to commemorate the invasion again, there will likely be no survivors of the battle to salute at Omaha Beach. But we will remember.

Once by the Atlantic (D-Day, June 6, 1944)

The season. The tides. The weather.
A continent crying for help.
The stealth (they hoped), till the shining armada
stretched from the Isles
in the rain and then
moonlight on the waves.

Almost as predictable: the courage,
the losses, the foul-ups, the death.
Something men had never
done to land before.

Sights set on victory, they saw predicted,
unlucky cliffs of cannon.
Ready to roll to Paris and then Berlin,
they saw hedgerows. And fought on—
not home for Christmas;
the year stretched to spring.

Now calm and peaceful,
the sand smooth, the fog a comforter,
the mud and blood covered by grass and gratitude:
Names, names, names—
a marble armada of names,
and so many known but to God.
Yet He knows all their loss and all they gained;
they helped Him turn the light back on.
So many, so many, young, afraid, determined,
and at rest. The waves still crash
a symphony of peace for them, of warning for us.

—Lisa Bolin Hawkins

The Channel stopped you phot STF AFP-Getty Images
The message to the Nazis, chalked on the plane, says, “The Channel stopped you but not us.” (Photo: STF; AFP/Getty Images)

Apologies to Robert Frost and his poem, “Once By the Pacific.”

For more about the D-Day memorial in 2019, see Rachel Donadio’s excellent June 6, 2019, article in The Atlantic, “Nothing Prepares You for Visiting Omaha Beach,”