Great Barrier by Barbara Kingsolver

Australia TH9515 licensed

Great Barrier
by Barbara Kingsolver

The cathedral is burning. Absent flame or smoke,
stained glass explodes in silence, fractal scales
of angel damsel rainbow parrot. Charred beams
of blackened coral lie in heaps on the sacred floor,
white stones fallen from high places, spires collapsed
crushing sainted turtle and gargoyle octopus.

Something there is in my kind that cannot love
a reef, a tundra, a plain stone breast of desert, ever
quite enough. A tree perhaps, once recomposed
as splendid furniture. A forest after the whole of it
is planed to posts and beams and raised to a heaven
of earnest construction in the name of Our Lady.

All Paris stood on the bridges to watch her burning,
believing a thing this old, this large and beautiful
must be holy and cannot be lost. And coral temples
older than Charlemagne suffocate unattended,
bleach and bleed from the eye, the centered heart.

Lord of leaves and fishes, lead me across this great divide.
Teach me how to love the sacred places, not as one
devotes to One who made me in his image and is bound
to love me back. I mean as a body loves its microbial skin,
the worm its nape of loam, all secret otherness forgiven.

Love beyond anything I will ever make of it.

PHOTO: Helicopter view of the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Photo by TH9515, used by permission.

NOTE: The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for more than 1,400 miles over an area of approximately 133,000 square miles. Located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. Environmental pressures on the reef and its ecosystem include climate change, increasing ocean temperatures, runoff, mass coral bleaching, and dumping of dredging sludgeAccording to a study published in October 2012 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reef has lost more than half its coral cover since 1985. To find out how you can help save The Great Barrier Reef, visit

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