Listening to strange cathedrals

by Elizabeth Jill

They bell in memory like gongs
I think everybody knows

who's been listening to them again,
listening to strange cathedrals.

They move like prayer
they soothe like song.

Deep gonging, low and middle

Keep listening, listening to them
listening to strange cathedrals

No need to spell your name for God
there goes an ancient riddle,

just listen to the moment, nod;
you are listening to strange cathedrals.

And when you're asked
where have you been?

You can answer,
Bending the grass.

Because you've been listening,
hearing, then listening again.

Listening to strange cathedrals.

Author's Note: I reckon every writer has some cathedral we go away to, a nook in the house, a garden, time alone during a commute, a running track, a park. In my case, it's an ancient giant Oak Tree that umbrellas over my old porch. "Listening To Strange Cathedrals" is the title of my first upcoming chapbook, and it will have the rare blessing of having some complementing artwork to the poems included on the cover and the inside. The ancient pines I placed alongside this preface poem are on the cover.


Posted on 03/21/2006
Copyright © 2021 Elizabeth Jill

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 03/21/06 at 02:47 AM

Fascinating first line, my friend, followed by me sitting very still - listening, listening. You make me think of all my special places. Thank you!

Posted by Matthew Taylor on 03/21/06 at 04:46 AM

wonderfully exprssed.

Posted by Mara Meade on 03/21/06 at 01:32 PM

And when you're asked where have you been? You can answer Bending the grass. Because you've been listening, hearing, then listening again. Listening to strange cathedrals. An incredible poem, Jill. I especially appreciate the last lines which, for me, allow the "cathedrals" to be any place or thing on this earth. This is very moving, very and deeply spiritual.

Posted by Jim Benz on 03/21/06 at 05:33 PM

this is just another piece of magic I've come to expect from your pen. absolutely beautiful, and thoroughly original in execution.

Posted by Julie Adams on 03/22/06 at 07:56 PM

Thanks for the heads up on this piece... I love how when I read this poem, thanks to the couplets, the metaphorical cathedral, which can house so many different things for us all, is seen, heard and felt (at some distance even to the self) in the base of the belly almost...there, where noises become strange, tho I never thought so before now...thank you for your fresh imagery and subject matter that particularly writers and artists can cling to...esp. loved the title and 'Bending the grass' ...well done, girly! I wish you the best on your chapbook, you are a talented writer and I wish you every success!

Posted by Kathleen Wilson on 03/23/06 at 04:22 AM

The beginning brings us...with immediacy to that place that is invoked...without yet being named. "They bell in memory". Thus we are hushed and brought what rings for us and inspires. I actually had an experience less metaphorical, but connected... when we went to Delft last summer...and we really heard the stirring gongs of strange cathedrals...which called up shivers as we walked those unfamiliar historically inspired cobblestone streets...the sound calls up the feeling of inspiration...and the bending grass, the touch of sand between the toes, the sound of waves, the sound of our feet on cobblestone streets, the wind through the pines...all these in that sounding... chimes each ...your poem ringing true of your and my strange cathedrals!

Posted by Rula Shin on 03/23/06 at 09:35 PM

Their are so many languages in this world that attempt to communicate subjective truths using all but the eyes and ears...but it's always silence that speaks most. Somehow, this is what your 'strange cathedral' says to me. HEARING is synonymous with SEEING. A lovely poem.

Posted by Mary Ellen Smith on 04/28/06 at 09:51 PM

Very have created a tone here that compliments your theme...thank you for taking us under your oak tree with you.

Posted by Susan Q Tomas on 05/03/06 at 02:08 PM

This is excellent! It sounds like lyricks. The picture is a really nice touch.

Posted by Vere Mantratriad on 05/06/06 at 06:27 PM

This is gorgeous. The flow of the words... you can hear the echo.

Posted by Deborah Breuer on 07/10/06 at 01:36 AM

I like it...I can't say why just yet but it touches the soul, requiring something human of the reader...Thanks I needed that.

Posted by Philip F De Pinto on 11/06/06 at 02:51 PM

yes, everyone to their own cathedrals. in my case the cathedral is achieved by merely sticking my neck into my own vacuousness and you talk about acoustic. ding dong ding, I love the way this poem clings to my bells and thus my cloisters.

Posted by Paul Lastovica on 06/27/07 at 10:32 PM

i like the sound of this - the words, the bells - the sound of the trees on the side. i'm there.

Posted by Maria Kintner on 08/18/07 at 06:32 AM

this sings...

Posted by Michelle Angelini on 09/23/07 at 04:26 AM

So beautiful, with a serenity that whispers in the zephyrs - soothing, comforting, a place of safety. Nothing can touch the one who comes to this place - in His Wings all is well. I feel my heart at peace when I read these words and I too, have a strange cathedral I go to - my safe place of beauty, love, and strength. In the quiet of this night I am there, as we each are in our own places. Thank you for these words Jill.

Posted by Charlie Morgan on 09/30/07 at 03:27 AM

...elizabeth, a zillion remarks, comments...didn't i tell you you were great...i love the resounding mellow theme carrying this firm but soft and too much gal...peace, charlie

Posted by Mike Loftis on 11/26/08 at 02:51 AM

"No need to spell your name for God there goes an ancient riddle" is my favorite line. Excellent piece Elizabeth.

Posted by Dan Kasten on 12/14/08 at 07:40 PM

In my former life I used to refer people by the dozens to this very cathedral. Glad to see it is still posted and still pointing in the correct direction.

Posted by Joan Serratelli on 02/24/09 at 02:16 PM

I can just hear those bells in my head and picture the cathedral-you made it come alive! The picture on the side is a nice touch! GREAT read and, of course, brilliant write!

Posted by Melissa Arel on 01/05/10 at 10:15 PM

really so very beautiful.

Posted by Angela Stevens on 07/06/11 at 03:25 PM

This was lovely to read, made me feel peaceful.

Posted by Wayne Tate on 07/08/11 at 02:53 AM

Beautiful, beautiful words. I haven't been bending the grass as much as I would have hoped, but this piece definitely gives me the motivation to do it. Thank you for posting this Elizabeth. It is now a favorite.

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