This June 2021, guest editor Lane Henson features 4 of Duluth Minnesota’s many fine poets.

Deborah Rasmussen’s poem, Notre Dame de Paris, 1971, beautifully follows the ghost of young love through the cathedral’s looming architecture.  This poem asks us to consider those things that are left behind – that so quickly fall apart – in the presence of what feels ancient, infallible.  

Lane Henson

Notre Dame de Paris, 1971
by Deborah Rasmussen

Within her sacred chamber
Our Lady unravels the strands
of my story.
I grasp at them
as though such wisps
can tether me
to all I must leave:
that sweet boy,
fellow student
and cher petit ami.
I’m sure he’s crying, too,

because that’s all I can do
among these saints and apostles,
martyrs who know what it is
to lose a life
a love
to bear up as grief presses
against inner buttresses,
while the world pushes back,
determined to keep upright
what wants to collapse.

Mary gazes down from her niche,
matches me tear for tear
as I insist I’ll be back.
One year.
Every inhabitant of this holy place
doubts that.

Maybe I do, too, as I watch
the colors of France
and first love
bleed into ancient panes
stained with every sorrow
that has ever been
that will ever be.


Deborah Rasmussen lives in Duluth, MN.  Her poems have appeared in The Thunderbird Review, Talking Stick, Barstow and Grand, on Rattle Poets Respond on the Lake Superior Writers website.

“Notre Dame de Paris, 1971” by Deborah Rasmussen appears here with permission of the author.