In the Province of Fire
(James Hampton, sculptor, 1909-1964)
The Throne of the Third Heaven
What Christ would sit on this throne
of radiant, alarming tinfoil,
turrets and wings, butterflies of cardboard?
What god would speak from this pulpit
intoning the words of Moses and the prophets
announcing them from crooked tablets
covered in scripts of unknown meaning?
Who would decipher these urgent messages?
A janitor of the discarded,
a prophet of the lonelyó
who stayed in his garage through the night
and lettered, on a makeshift platform
cardboard tablets bearing
The New Testament, the Old Testament,
the history of the Millennium.
He drew and painted, nailed crowns
of purple art paper to the throneís back,
one for the east wind, one for the west,
Godís wind blowing through all thatís forlorn
even to this cold and simple rented garage
on N Street where the seat of the Great One
waits, empty. The janitorís monument
spread, its great shining balls of crumpled
aluminum covering castoff tables,
exploding into crowns and snowflakes.
While revelations expanded in his head,
he, most faithful of servants, Godís carpenter,
shaped wings and raised swords
into a glory of lightning bolts,
apocalypse of wood and paper.
The poor will stand in his first circle,
luminous, when God takes his seat
on the tinfoil throne among rays
of foil-covered light bulbs.
He will lift a paper crown
from the dusty floor to a place
on the head of one who has labored
in dim light with glue and straight pins
and has not been afraid.
from her book Province of Fire , Iris Press, 1990 www.irisbooks.com