Set in the desert where a Jesuit
Thought best to break ground for his order’s mission, San Xavier rose. Brown peaks surrounded it,
As did Apaches sometimes, in small bands—
A sanctuary fated not to perish
In their raids.

Its touristed condition—
The wooden saints carved up and robed in garish
Reds and yellows (rust and dusty mustard
Now)—accommodates the gold-grained sands,
But all is poor here: pew and grille and altar.

Above, in blazing light, the pensive buzzard,
In patient circles, notes what creatures falter
On the desert floor. The tower bell
Tolls faithfully to call to Heaven’s riches
Parishioners who affirm its muffled knell
By kneeling in the almost-cooling dark.
The statues that fulfill their duty’s niches,
Like Magdalenes that try on Donatello,
Look down on what the votive tapers mark:
Bronzed cheekbones muted in an umbrous yellow.
In humble attitudes of tenderness,
They pray away the day each day, that sorrow
May be lifted from the souls they bless
Before the dawn sets fire to tomorrow.