In Notre-Dame's south tower, there's the great bourdon bell Emmanuel, which I have been up to touch.
In the last days, after all he said
and didn’t say, his iron tongue
resting in the open bell of his mouth,
the belfry of his face asleep,
I climbed the spiral steps of the tower –
up the steep steps of the bell cage, to the bourdon,
the great bumblebee, Emmanuel.
I stared at that bronze weight, the voice of Paris,
as if it was my father’s voice
and I had climbed up his spine,
all thirteen tons of copper and tin,
the clapper half a ton of exorcised iron.
I washed the outside with holy oil for the sick,
the inside with chrism. Let all badness
be banished when he rings. Let the powers of the air
tremble – the hail and lightning
that fell from his tongue on our last days together.
I made the sign of the cross. His note
was F sharp, the hum
deep enough to reverberate through the rest of my life.
I stood upright in him.
I placed myrrh inside his mouth, incense
smoking like a last cigarette.
I praised him. I assembled the priests.
I mourned his death.
Storm clouds dispersed. Thunderbolts scattered.
I tolled in Sabbaths. I raised
my father’s life to its hoists and rang him until I was deaf.
I proclaimed peace after bloodshed.
from (forthcoming) Fauverie (Seren, 2014), © Pascale Petit 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher