Sarah Law

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“The Botafumeiro,” read by Sarah Law.

The Botafumeiro

Forty kilos of charcoal and incense
swung in love’s unlikely service—

the botafumeiro, largest of its kind
like some unwieldy dinosaur

is hefted up by staggering tiraboleiros
pulling on their (now synthetic) ropes

to hurl the massive thurible
along, and back, the length of the cathedral.

It drew crowds then, and now. The blistered
pilgrims trailing miles of grit and grime

are fumigated in its cleansing plume:
everyone’s enveloped in the sacred prayer.

There were, of course, accidents—some fatal.
Hot coals thundered to the floor in 1937.

Catherine of Aragon, 1499, witnessed
the best: as she journeyed to marry the heir

to the English throne, the botafumeiro, loosed
from its moorings, flew through the Platerios high window

out into the wide blue sky. What
must she have thought, as its shattering ascent

left her, like us, among the shards and clouds
to struggle with the miracles of faith?

Sarah Law lives in London and is an Associate Lecturer for the Open University. She has poems in The Windhover, St Katherine Review, America, Psaltery & Lyre, Soul-Lit, Heart of Flesh, Earth and Altar and elsewhere. Her latest collection, Thérèse: Poems is published by Paraclete Press. She edits Amethyst Review, an online journal for new writing engaging with the sacred.

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Photo Credit: “Botafumeiro, Catedral de Santiago de Compostela” by subherwal,

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