Monday, February 11, 2013

John Reibetanz

John Reibetanz was born in New York City in 1944, but has made his home in Toronto. He has taught for many years at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College. In 2004 he won the Petra Kenny Poetry Competition.

In 2012 Rufus Books published Péter Cserháti: hidden treasures in woodcarving, sculpture and sketches, which combines images of Cserháti's art with ekphrastic poems by John Reibetanz in a beautiful limited-editon book.

The following poem is from his seventh collection Transformations (2006); the poem first appeared in Southern Review, and was also included in the anthology Poetry as Liturgy which was edited by Margo Swiss.

Wells Cathedral, Afloat

Light spreads it maplike on the water’s glass-topped table,
--sleeks the seamless join of sky and stone.
----Light’s ripples whisper to your soul
------this is the real cathedral.

Where liquid air laps liquid arches that support
--a dove-grey haze of ashlar, buttresses
----flutter their wings and God’s house sails,
------both ark and Ararat.

The master mason and his fellows carved a vision:
--these wells its harbour, hooded from Atlantic winds
----by mortared walls that bishops and deans
------put their solid faith in.

Masons knew stone too well to trust their heaven to it.
--Earth-anchored, blind to light, pried from its bed
----with pain, the Judas stone betrayed
------their backs and drank their blood.

They raised that pile as template for this floating prayer.
--Here no roof argues with the stars, no tower
----shadows the houses of the poor.
------The walls are holy water.

Within, the font refills itself and overflows,
--flooding the crypt where sun-scaled rainbows spawn.
----Rooted tendrils of a true vine
------thread the Jesse window.

Knock, and the door will open, softly taking your hand.
--To enter, you must give up all you have,
----blow your last breath back to land,
------let your lips close on heaven.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: