Dorianne Laux

Monks In the Grand Chartreuse

            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,

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.