“[H]aving no fear of heights,
[Gerard Manley] Hopkins
walked the third-story window ledge
of a hall, casual as a cat, in order to
rescue a boy’s pet monkey.”
Ron Hansen, Exiles, p. 159
The boy has never seen a priest catwalk a ledge
as if he could just as easily tread the air, keeping
his eyes fixed on the clouds, possibly Jesus’s face,
not even glancing down like the apostle Peter
having forgotten faith could relocate mountains
enable even a human to walk on water.
Having already risked the Pride of poetry,
a new syntax translating Christ in sprung rhythm–
dapple-dáwn-drawn Falcon, Windhover,
Father Hopkins fears no ledge,
his foot slipping to the thinner element,
his black cassock billowing like a wing
and he rung upon this leading foot not doubting
the hurl, the gliding to idle upon the steady áir
and extend his open palms to this creature
Christ must love, “Come unto me,” and amaze the boy:
a priest indifferent to air, handing over the child’s pet,
then folding his wing to swoop a parabola just above
the pavement and climb into the Shine of people
looking up and pointing, some maybe repenting,
his flight a kind of forgiveness for having thought
to place his foot back on the substantial ledge.
And it is the meek who are blessed, not poet priest
casting words upon the page in such language,
an esoteric beauty only he may perceive. But look!
He is walking a ledge to retrieve a boy’s monkey.
Surely someone glancing up will recognize a poem.
*Hopkins, Gerard Manley. “The Windhover,” Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works,Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Catherine Phillips, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford UP, 2002, 2009, p. 132. Italicized words and selected images are from “The Windhover.”
Hansen, Ron. Exiles, Picador, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008, p 159.