BY WILLIAM WOOLFITT
1890: Ardèche, France
Then I practice frozen lips,
tongue of lead. I shed cravings,
peel away the encumbrances
and greeds of the body. The monks eat
without sound, soften the swish
of robes, step with feet that feather
the earth. My spoon clatters. Phlegm
rattles my lungs. I pray that prayer
can tether me, be the cool
gray stone that dulls my rough edges
and burrs. After high mass, I turn
to chores: I pull thistles, rub the brass,
gather kindling, twine wreathes,
thresh and bundle the hay.
Each small interruption, I savor.
The yipping fox. The blue rock-thrush
who pipes the same six notes.
In my free hour, I read the breviary,
nurse my sore feet, dig my thumb
between the long bones and tendons,
and remember that I am foul matter.