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Late Gothic

by Esther Lin

Even in stone, the flames of Saint-Maclou
are too passionate for me. The young man

says they belong to Late Gothic builders,
who ringed each portal and window with

the facsimile of fire. For every style,
there is an Early period, a well-heeled

Classic period, and the Late. Builders who,
hectic to outmaneuver their masters,

valued movement and drama above all else.
The young man wishes to go north together.

But in the twelve weeks I’ve walked these
churches I have entered into a new style.

My father and mother are dead. I have left
my husband. There is no one left to protect.

I say, no, thank you. Not I. Let me walk
up to the ideas of the Early Gothic.

Whose strength swells from conviction and daring.
Before others elaborated upon it.

Studying art history, I noticed that I enjoyed the early stages of any period and disliked the late stages of most. To generalize, the early periods tend toward a sternness and restraint I admired (archaic, severe), whereas the late (baroque, mannerist) overwork the innovations of their predecessors—to glorious and ridiculous effect. Which is what love is to me, sometimes.

Esther Lin was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for twenty-one years. She is author of Cold Thief Place, which won the 2023 Alice James Award and the chapbook The Ghost Wife. She was a Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, and a Wallace Stegner Fellow. Her poems appear in 32 Poems, Gettysburg Review, Hyperallergic, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Currently Lin co-organizes the Undocupoets, which raises consciousness about the structural barriers that undocumented poets face.