A saint, Romain, cut off our father’s head
And nailed it on a Rouen church, they said,
For he was evil (so the saint did swear;
I would not know, I simply was not there).
For fifteen hundred years thereafter we
Are banished from all churches, the Gargouilles
Or gargoyles; made of unforgiving stone,
Condemned to squat on gutters to atone
Rerouting rain and bitter tears, denied
The Sacraments that you partake inside.
Our fate, for some great long-forgotten sin,
Is to remind all humankind, within
The holy walls, that danger lurks outside;
Our form of penance is our source of pride:
We wait throughout the centuries, below
We watch you sons of Adam come and go;
Within our One Creator’s grand design
From weather foul we guard Our Lady’s shrine:
When Christmas bells peal out to beckon you,
In holy joy we gargoyles tremble too.
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