Today's poem is by Maurya Simon

Before Her Death
"So many of my songs are gone from me,
and even my very voice has left me now." — Virgil

Yearly, the slug crisscrosses his own tearstains,
the queen bee encrypts her hive with secret chambers,
the locust grafts his song upon fleeing shadows,
the worm weans herself on wolfbane, on stardust.

I sit in the heat of my own discontent, where
only the gruff sound of his voice replenishes me.
It is never enough to love, simply to love.
Better to cleave to the silver blade, its quiver.

Better to gather a basket of roses and lilies,
ivory and purple, to fast with strangers,
to bask in the body's hungers as in sunlight.
I bear witness to myself with meditation;

as one substratum of my heart calcifies,
another layer pleasures itself with memory:
my touch a chink in his armor, his touch
frugal, but scalding, and his gaze plainsong.

I grow hoarse. My virgins pile a pyramid of
fruits before me, to tempt me again to break
my fasting. I will not. Faith is episodic
initially—but these long years it's yielded

to something else... something slowly fluid—
a liberation of the senses, an animal wisdom.
I watch my sparrow granddaughter polish the pyx,
the nape of her neck softened by cilia of down,

her open face so like my own a lifetime ago—
contemplative as well water, a rosy cameo.
Is she suited for a nun's habit? I think perhaps
her fingers are better fitted to a cithera's strings.

Yet I find such flexibility of thought in her,
and an undefiled purity that enthralls me.
Little Paula, come sit on my wrinkled knees—
teach me to be like an angel struck dumb—

(Bethlehem, Summer 403)

Copyright © 2009 Maurya Simon All rights reserved
from The Raindrop's Gospel: The Trials of St. Jerome and St. Paula
Elixir Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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