In a Courtyard

The gargoyles by Saint-Severin
protrude like clothes hooks: you could hang
a sky on six. Or pick out one —
my cloak of musings, snagged thereon,
alongside stoles of piety,
makes me to sit at a plane tree’s
crooked knees, and think about
gargoyles — how now each ugly snout,
fashioned to frighten evil off
an age ago, has been rebuffed,
and, battered shapeless, scraped and rubbed,
might sense our century had snubbed
its. Listen, Warden, the winds say
weal and wonder wear away
like gilt . . . the modern doctrine finds
evil only in men’s minds.
Devils do not exist any more!
Evil itself is slated for
extinction, as time renders tame
any species it can name.
You statues: your utility’s
made art, our curiosity
faith’s lonely end. Here, laved in dust,
a cast-iron Virgin blushes rust.
So beasts conduce to clothes hooks. See.
A twist of blue smoke lazily
rises like haze, or soot to soil
the chipped low lip of one gargoyle.
Then, from behind some colonnade
peers, ungrotesque and undismayed,
the smoker. Pin-striped, fat and short,
he ambles through the crumbling court.