I have visited so many sacred sites, by design or fortune, that
a singular lesson has been amplified beyond revelation to certainty:
each of us is the innermost sanctum. One needs travel no further
than the soul to experience the most perfectly proportioned temple
and the most daringly elegant cathedral.
Still, I shall relate the story of "Notre Dame," a poem which has already
surpassed me and my relatively few years walking the earth.
Kato Zakros is the final town at the eastern tip of Crete, an island
of famous mythologies (Minos, the Minotaur, its labyrinth; Theseus,
Ariadne; Zeus, Demeter, Persephone, Dionysus (prototype for God
the Father, God the Holy Ghost, Mary and God the Son)) and mythic
civilizations (Minoan). I had once dreamed of living among its fabled
palm trees--the first I would have ever had seen--during my two year
journey (which I sometimes call my third crusade) which began in
County Kerry, Ireland, and ended in Jerusalem. Nine months into the
adventure, that first spring, I found a garden house in Mirtos (along
the southern coast of the island) and ventured no further east than
I finally visited Kato Zakros fifteen years later during my return
pilgrimage to Mirtos. I found a small room above the pebbled beach
which looked directly across the eastern Mediterranian to Acre.
It was in that white bed floating over the site of a vanished, vanquished
Minoan Temple, the Queen’s Magaron, the wife of the Lord’s Prayer
appeared to me. It began as a trickle of words in the fissures of the
ancient, shadowy ceiling, and they puddled into a cloud settling
upon my chest and blossoming behind my eyes.
I rose and wrote out the Lord’s Prayer and began to construct a new
poem--its “lost half”--alongside.
Nine months later, I discovered the poem folded into Anabasis
(St. John Pearse) at the bottom of my knapsack among fragments
of writing and songs and addresses hurried across
half sheets and receipts. I left it in my bag as I prepared for a
flight to Tel Aviv.
I arrived to Jerusalem three weeks before Passover and Easter
and decided to begin my Peace Tour of Israel, Jordan and Egypt
immediately to arrive back to the Holy City during holy week.
Having crossed the Red Sea into the Egyptian Sinai after a fortnight
of wandering Arabia enroute from Jerash and Petra to Aqaba, I
settled thankfully into a straw hut in a Bedouin camp. A little shade
upon the path to Mt. Sinai was a relief. There was another westerner
living in the camp, a German woman whose intensely blond hair was
always covered with a black scarf. A devotee of mysticism and desert
deities, particularly fertility goddesses, this woman without child
kept to herself. One afternoon we met in the absolute silence of the
desert near a primitive sink. If I were composing a Bible story, I would
say that we met at a well.
I recited the fragments of the poem I would name "Notre Dame" two
weeks later in Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris enroute back to the
Her eyes were intense as the sky we were hiding from, her skin
cured as a person’s twice her age.
Hermitic--and hermetic--as she was, she encouraged me to birth
the words to the world; and I finished the poem that night walking
beside the gentle ripple of the Red Sea, revising aloud with each
step. It was a full moon, and I recited into its eyes and purity.
Distant fires in the desert, I later learned, were Israeli families
singing and feasting, for it was also the eve of Passover.
I recited Notre Dame into Mount Sinai. I said to Jehovah, “If this
poem displeases you, I stand here naked in the place where two
apostates (with rather complicated, forgettable names) were
devoured by the earth--”
The night remained still, benevolent.
I recited the poem again a few days later on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem
at Christ Church.
And again months later at the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai
Lama during the World Festival of Sacred Music. I had just returned
from the island of Kauai where the music had been born as Aphrodite
from the sea.
Melissa Dittmann, now living in the back country of Tibet, graciously
accompanied me. Fortunately, I recorded the moment.
© 2009 Fammerée
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To experience the live performance of "Notre-Dame
(Blue & Green)" with music composed by the artist,
and listen to selection #2.
A video interpretation of "Notre Dame," created by
the director of TWiN Poetry International, can be viewed
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Photograph by Fammerée
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