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
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.