Silent–the best are silent now. – Matthew Arnold
Look down the long hall. Light
floods the cracks. A loaf of bread
hollowed out, kiln–fire gold.
They file by in white robes, winter
opening outside the curved windows,
snow folded like dough
over the vegetable gardens, clouds
low hammocks slung between frozen trees.
At work in the kitchen, the barn,
the sewing room, when the bells ring
they kneel where they are and pray.
In the library of gilt-edged books,
in their cells, they kneel. Alcoves
set with votives, kernels of yellow fire
struggling behind red glass, a table
rough hewn, piled with stiff linen.
Still water in stone carved basins,
touched with two fingers, shimmer.
A cat winds by like wind. They pray.
And when they rise and sing no one
hears them in their limestone valley.
The stars arch as night’s back
lifts and bristles. They chant
with closed eyes. They eat soup,
grainy potato. Celery, pale, stringy,
floats. Carrots and beans sunk
to the bottom of the bowl. The heavy
brown bread, almost inedible, soaks.
Nothing enters or leaves this quiet.
No bird. No squirrel. Cold white,
every branch still.
© Dorianne Laux. All Rights Reserved.