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Poetry Pleases: Visiting The Basilica Of The Holy Blood

In the quiet Chapel of a basilica in Bruges, unexpectedly, Jane Williams was offered the blood of Christ to venerate. She then found herself asking the biggest question that can be asked.

In the quiet Chapel of the Basilica, unexpectedly
We are offered the Blood of Christ to venerate.

Nonplussed, I stare at the high-canopied throne
Where a robed priest contemplates a small glass phial.
As medieval pilgrims moved to kiss a bone I climb the steps.
Two nuns go first. They know the drill, fall on their knees,
Press lips to the glass. We English tourists watch aghast
At such display. The one in front of me puts out a finger
Cautiously, awkwardly reverent.

My turn.

Here, at last, I stand facing the off chance, the what if,

Perhaps.

This just suppose is a little phial of powdery red dust.
Soon the priest raises his eyes, a gentle hint. I move on.
I do not touch. He smiles.

In the market square the world looks just the same.
No heavenly radiance, only a pewter sky heralding snow.
No angel choir, only the Skaters’ Waltz , the hiss of ice,
Cobbles rattling horse drawn carriages and the cheerful voices
Of unregenerate humanity.

The air is cold. I take Maggie’s arm. In the warm café
We drink tea and dip dark chocolate thins into rosettes of
Soft whipped cream. But still I’m thinking of the off chance.

Suppose the If was not conditional?

In Bruges, at Christmas, was Grace offered unsolicited,
A gift given to a rational-scientific-humanist?

Who can tell?

God only knows.

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