Father Wilerus,
transplanted Alsatian,
built around
this plain Wisconsin
redbrick church
a coral-reef en-
crustation–meant,
the brochure says,
to glorify America
and heaven simul-
taneously. Thus:
Mary and Columbus
and the Sacred Heart
equally enthroned
in a fantasia of quartz
and seashells, broken
dishes, stalactites
and stick-shift knobs–
no separation
of nature and art
for Father Wilerus!
He’s built fabulous blooms
–bristling mosaic tiles
bunched into chipped,
permanent roses—
and more glisteny
stuff than I can catalogue,
which seems to he the point:
a spectacle, saints
and Stars and Stripes
billowing in hillocks
of concrete. Stubborn
insistence on rendering
invisibles solid. What’s
more frankly actual
than cement? Surfaced,
here, in pure decor:
even the railings
curlicued with rows
of identical whelks,
even the lampposts
and birdhouses,
and big encrusted urns
wagging with lunar flowers!
A little dizzy,
the world he’s made,
and completely
unapologetic, high
on a hill in Dickeyville
so the wind whips
around like crazy.
A bit pigheaded,
yet full of love
for glitter qua glitter,
sheer materiality;
a bit foolhardy
and yet — sly sparkle —
he’s made matter giddy.
Exactly what he wanted,
I’d guess: the very stones
gone lacy and beaded,
an airy intricacy
of froth and glimmer.
For God? Country?
Lucky man:
his purpose pales
beside the fizzy,
weightless fact of rock.

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