A Hundred Gourds 2:4 September 2013
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page 14  

Cynthia Rowe - Australia


I am not particularly religious, but when I enter churches in Europe – above all in France – my ancestry takes hold. Ancient superstitions resurface; the weight of old souls bears down. I feel the concave stone, scuffed by those who’ve come before, beneath my feet; hear the flare of tapers, lit by Crusader monks, even when I’m alone. On this day, I am beneath an overhanging rock in the pilgrim church of Notre Dame. The air wraps the nave in a cloak of coolness. Were my ancestors ever in this place? I wonder. Or did they remain in Argenteuil? So many questions remain unanswered. I hear running footsteps, the sonorous voice of a teacher directing his charges, as they climb the steps from the lower town to worship before the legendary carved wood Madonna.

black virgin
the muffled chatter
of schoolchildren

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