Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize
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A Place Apart

Hung, awfully, over the valley
   on this remote escarpment,
a long, unearthly house
   of earth-pink stone,
a sanctum made, an alleluia
   on a rock — the bishop's.

Not a sour monk escaped domestic chains:
   daughters and granddaughters
on the plain storybook swing
   have dangled and disappeared.

Much of God's work — the stinted trees
   and laurels grateful for a cleft.
Much of his wife's — the well-staked
   vortexed lilies that obsess
the hummingbird; potted hydrangeas
   and a rare old door.

Inside, a sylvan mural,
   silver urns, a multipartite service;
Louis chairs in this —
   it cries out, gallery;
slim satin sofas stressing
   glassed, gouached views.

But first, his poet guest's
   hard put to find his refuge
in vined folds, descents,
   and passes hemlock hung
behind clerestory oaks
   and a world-fending wall.

The bookroom in this bastion
   opens west on flocks of
gathering mountains.
   Book spines soliloquize, they
beckon explorations with no map
   except his musing
Azalea arborescens trail
   flicked with goldfinches'
twitter and a sheaf of goldenrod,
   the thin leaves of a testament.

He quotes St. Augustine, talks
   fervently of Father Sergius,
is frankly pleased with his stone
   railings (that convent at Amalfi
where bees stole back
   their honey from the pane fritta),
his aged brick promenades
   leading to beeches on the bluff —
the Cherokees' sacred groves, still,
   it seems, wringing their hands.

If a night storm drags the valley,
   crawls up and breaks,
the angel of the storm
   loud-swishing in the trees,
he flicks the floodlights on
   iron vines of rainlashed chairs,
the roaming lightning
   and the vast, conclusive dark
wholly manifest, scourging
   his balconied Te Deum.

A fragile man,
   whitehaired and insubstantial,
a handful of evolving sparks
   in a dark room, breakfasting
with existing dark after dreams
   riddled and lanced with glory:
Do thou worship in a place apart,
   go shut the door.
And when you give alms, be it in secret.

What is he, whose polished worldly
   unaccountable Eden's proffered Heaven?
The poet, home, pounds
   his soft, common bed,
and unwords poems.

By Eleanor Ross Taylor
Recipient of the 2009 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize

Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press
from Late Leisure by Eleanor Ross Taylor.
Copyright © 1999 by Eleanor Ross Taylor.

© 2006 Carole Weinstein. All rights reserved.