archives, poetry

Notre Dame: Hymns in the Night. {poetry}

On the night of April 15, 2019, Parisians gathered to see their ancient cathedral Notre Dame ablaze.

As I, along with billions of people around the world, watched the iconic symbol of art, faith, and Western civilization darken with smoke and flame, feelings of horror, immense sadness, and oddly, wonder rose and roiled within me. An architectural magnificence that had withstood over 850 years of history was slowly succumbing to heat and flame. News reports were predicting its total demise.

But I didn’t believe it. And as the smoldering stone visage of the cathedral illuminated against the night sky, I watched myriad people from all walks of life, young and old, man and woman, stand together and break into song. Beautiful song. Overlapping and layering song. Women’s sopranos, altos, and vibrating beneath their ethereal voices, men’s baritones rang, punctuating the beauty of this human response.

Some of them were crying, holding each other. But everyone was singing Ave Maria.

It will not fall, I thought. It yet may stand.

And so it has. The oak timbers from 12th and 13th century trees, that were larger than anything that exists in France now, are cinders. But the doors remain, the organ with its more than 8000 pipes, the three rose windows dating back to the 13th century, seem at the time of this writing to be intact, the bells apparently will still ring and many artifacts and works of art were saved and will be restored.

Despite the ongoing deluge of water to fight the flames, while the cathedral fire itself was extinguished, inside candles previously lit by visitors still burned and glowed in the smoke-filled dark, intact.

A day later, as I write this, I seek to process these images of destruction of an ancient and beloved structure, of how Paris, dear Paris, has rallied yet again, and of how the world opens its heart in grief and confusion, reaching out in the way humans have done for millennia, creatively and spontaneously, unable to help ourselves.


Life is short for everyone. Even a hundred years
is not enough. Not even a millennium.

We drift toward another ice age
while Notre Dame burns, its fiery spire falls

fragile as a spent matchstick.
My breath comes short. So much left to be said

and done. But we are constantly told we have done it
all wrong. If only I’d said this, or not said that. If only I’d known.

Yet we know. When it comes down to it, within the bones,
and the heart, a song forms, ancient memory rides into the chill

night air. We know what to do. We’ve always known what to do.
Stronger together in creation and love. It is Spirit that moves us

and Spirit that will find its vehicle. Whatever way we are led
how breath forms words, that convey and instruct, executes ideas

we stretch our limbs, our fingers, our minds. We are held by love
when there is nothing else, for it never dies. Timber burns,

stones heat and char, continents freeze, our bodies sink back to ground
but love burns higher and brighter

than any arsonist’s intention or the fear behind it. Inside we know
who we are. If we listen now in the face of loss

we catch the subtle notes beneath
of harmony.


Lisa Marguerite Mora has won prizes for poetry and fiction. She conducts workshops and offers literary services through her website. Her work has been published in Rattle, Literary Mama, Public Poetry Series, California Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, Rebelle Society, Serving House Journal, among others. She has won a Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Prize, and in 2017, was the First Place winner in Micro Fiction for Dandelion Press’ the artwork of Lori Preusch, and the 14th Moon Prize for Writing in a Woman’s Voice. Shopping around a first novel, she has caught the attention of top agents.


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