Praying the Hours

The ice slabs on the river groan when the terce sun strikes them, cracking
as the cold night lifts and exposes them to something new.

I listen to their shifting from here, above the sound of wood
stirring, crumbling as the stove’s heat grows and undoes everything.

Tonight at vespers the incense was so thick it filled my lungs, wove
into my hair, my clothes, my soul. It enfolded me as he prayed:
let your love be like incense.

So much that I am overwhelmed by it? Almost wishing it to end, almost wishing to rush
outside into the January air so cold, so fresh, it makes me gasp, stars fierce
above the waning vesper light.

Antony went into the Egyptian desert seeking something, says the monk. He didn’t run
from anything. He ran toward something.

Like you are doing, he adds.

I did not know I was seeking something when I walked into that arid place.
Except to love. To be loved.

I stand now at the mouth of the tomb, wrapped in my grave-clothes and
waiting. The sound of shifting is unmistakable

in the time between compline and the beginning again of matin.

Emery House
West Newbury, MA

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