On the burning of cathedrals

Grand cathedrals burn down. It is in
The nature of things. Greatness seems
To mark beauty, at the edges, to
Singe. As if destruction sculpted the body of
The old, as if the stealing were in the
Glory of the gold. Palmyra was flattened
They say, even statues brought down
And levelled with the grey of sand. Entire
Cities stand witness to time in their falling.
In the Museo Nacional they found – amid the
200 million treasures lost – a human skull. The
Oldest human, Luzia, like a book recovered from
That blaze of human history, Alexandria,
Survived like a photograph from a vacation album,
Taken, oh, a few years ago – we remember the exact
Year and day – of us, standing, see? right there,
You can see it looming behind the kids, the
Unfallen spire, I can’t believe we’ll never
See it again, such a place! Such is the nature
Of human desire, fueled into passion by
Such a lie. How seductive it is, to see things
Die. To know that the histories of Iraq were
Scattered to bidders in various lands. To feel
The contours of cathedrals that live now, only
In our hands.

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