Monday, October 6, 2014

Poetry Monday: "Fixed Hour Prayers"

I don't have much writing time today.  So let me post a poem.  It's from the group of poems published at the wonderfully cool, online journal Escape Into Life.  Since it's an online journal, they can do neat things with images, and my poems are paired with wonderful fabric art.  Go here to see the feature.

Those of you who follow my poetry and/or my blogs know that monasticism often informs my writing and that I often find The Liturgy of the Hours seeping into my writing as image and symbol and unifying theme--and often in ways that surprise me.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea of the Liturgy of the Hours and fixed hour prayers, an explanation might help.  In monastic life, the cloistered members gather at the chapel at specific hours for a service which mostly consists of chanting the Psalms.  In non-monastic life, a spiritual discipline of praying at specific times can mimic that monastic practice, or it can be less formal.

How did I come to think of a monastic chapel in conjunction with a hospital?  I don't really remember.  But I do remember that the poem came out fairly easily once it percolated in my subconscious for awhile.

Fixed Hour Prayers

Her father’s inner life, closed
to her, and now, to him, a distant
monastery, a vow of silence
required for visitation.

Still, she makes her pilgrimage. She brings
baskets of goodies: the pistachio nuts
he loves, the puzzle books,
some warm socks. She leaves
her offering on his dresser.

She listens to the Gregorian chant
of her father’s wheezing lungs,
a language at once both familiar
and strange. The nurses, with their Psalmody
of medications, appear throughout the day,
a liturgy of the hours.

Before she leaves, she reads
the books of her childhood
out loud to him: the otter
making his journey home, the children
finding their way through a dark forest,
families forging a life on a prairie.

She reads these bedtime stories,
a compline of comfort
that asserts the possibility
of safe passage through the night.

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

As someone who comes from a tradition of fixed liturgical prayer, and also as someone who has worked as a hospital chaplain: I love this so much.