Church of Rose of Lima, Cincinnati

It looks from the hill like something
Fra Angelico painted, the red
rectangular lines and the bricked bell
steepled out of time. This church
honors Saint Rose in a city
as spare of Peruvians as miracles.

It floods out whenever the river rises
and has a smell of common water
at the altars, and pilots of tows
on long hauls from Pennsylvania
needle the dark with searching lights
to catch the hour off her clock.

Saint Rose keeps a timid time.
Iíve heard her bell strike three
as if an afternoon surprised her.
The church itself may well surprise her.
In Lima she has golden altars; Germans
made them wood on the unliturgical river.

But churches anywhere seem rude for her.
This virgin kept a hidden time
and the world could give no wedding ring
to wed her with. Her lover came quick
and killed the Peruvian roses she grew fond of
and the small buds withered in the winter fog.

Once I thought the rococo Christ
had made her a violent dove and held
her trembling in his hand like a bell.
I am not so sure of this today.
She may be undiscoverable, like silt
slow rivers encourage into islands.

—From Rivers into Islands, 1965.