March 1, 2018

Poetry Friday--"Cathedral Tour Guide"

I was a participant in Laura Shovan's "6th Annual February Daily Poetry Project" and wrote a poem on each of the 28 days of February (and the last seven days of January). I've been illustrating some that are not dependent on the original work of art that acted as a prompt. I may be sharing one or two more on future Poetry Fridays.

This is a persona poem, which is defined by The Poetry Archive's glossary, "A persona, from the Latin for mask, is a character taken on by a poet to speak in a first-person poem."

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.


Cathedral Tour Guide

The busload of tourists
gone I sit and breathe
alone, but not lonely.

Those who visit now
are not looking to learn
the history of the window.

We watch the change in
the quality of its colors
as the sun melts away.

Red, now saint's blood.
Not blue, but caelestis.
Yellow? Inferno, of course.

We sit--outer and inner
selves primed to accept
the pending darkness.

Note: caelestis is the Latin root of the word, celestial.

The guide is a product of my imagination and the cathedral is not a particular one. I did think of the "window" as a circular rose window. In reading about windows, I found that a rose window is also known as a "Catherine window," after the 4th century martyr, St. Catherine of Alexandria. (I added a statue of St. Catherine to the illustration.)

This led to a look into Catherine. Here's a quick summary of her story: originally a pagan, at age 14, Catherine had a vision of the Madonna and Child and became an ardent Christian. She had a run-in with emperor Maxentius, a pagan, who tried a number of ways to "persuade" her to renounce her faith. He used torture, starvation, and when that failed, he proposed marriage! Not surprisingly, she refused. He didn't like her response and ordered her executed on a breaking wheel. A breaking wheel was used to crush the bones of the person being executed. Contrary to what it was supposed to do to Catherine, the wheel itself was broken. (The breaking wheel became known as a "Catherine wheel.") Catherine was finally executed by beheading, she was 18. Believe me, her story is much more complex and mystical then my retelling!

Renée at No Water River will be posting this week's Round-Up, please stop by!


  1. Oh, poor many beautiful windows in the world from her ugly suffering and death. This poem is beautiful. I like it because I am very much a tour guide of sorts as a school librarian. I am "on" during the day for many people. But, I love the time when I can be in the quiet space letting thoughts come and go...worshipping in a way the beauty of collected knowledge and literature in the space.

  2. "...worshipping in a way the beauty of collected knowledge and literature in the space." Linda Mitchell you have a poetic sensibility!

  3. I love the windows in cathedrals. They are divine.

  4. I do love this - there's something so inspiring about sitting in a quiet space, not worrying about making sure to learn all the facts or see all the sights, but simple being present, absorbing the surroundings, using the space as it was intended, as a place of reflection and communion.

  5. You really capture the moment and draw us in with you, Diane. Beautiful. (I had heard about Saint Catherine before...what a story!)

  6. Love the idea of the museum guide taking a quiet moment to enjoy the art in private and in a personal way, rather than the usual scripted way. She might need to meet up with my museum guard sometime!

  7. I loved it then, and still, Diane, bringing a deeper reflection from the tour guide for our thoughts.Thanks for the extra info, too, though I know you've said it was sketchy.

  8. Beautiful poem, Diane, you captured such a lovely moment of reflection. I also enjoyed the interesting backstory about Catherine.

  9. What a thought provoking poem, Diane. I love that you focused on the tour guide's personal connection with the art and let the quiet moments she is enjoying seep into the reader's experience slowly, purposefully, and inevitably.

  10. Your poem is the perfect guide for my trip to England this coming week. I hope to visit several cathedrals while I'm there. I will think of Catherine (I had heard her name but did not know her story) when I look at the windows.

  11. Not only was your poem deep and allowed for pondering and additional reads but it was followed by interesting information. When I was in elementary school, the nuns always shared stories about martyrs. Catherine is a name dear to my heart. It is my mother's name and my grandbaby's middle name in honor of my mother (spelled with K-Kathryn). I look forward to seeing your other digital designed #imagepoems, Diane.

  12. I've heard the story of Catherine, but did not know how young she was! Thanks for sharing this poem here - it's quite arresting in its imagery, and I'd not had a chance to read it on the FB page.

  13. Awed by all of the daily poetry you all created... and do love this one. Thanks, too, for the (horrendous) historical details about Catherine.

    (I'm pretty crazy about that gorgeous curved black openwork image over the luminous colors....)