Sometimes I wake at night to listen
To Father Walter’s coughing in the
Next room; tomorrow he will complain
All day his feet and toes are cold. Sister
Gloria offers him warm tea, honey.
Together they talk about some monstrous
Polish poverty or the Capuchine
Shrine at Poznan where the Little Sisters
Of the Poor wear white cotton armlets, weave
Vestments, the God of our Fathers having
Endowed them with skill in gold, violet,
Purple, green and scarlet yarn, fine linen.
Last night I lightly slept and dreamt again
The final words of Moses. I saw a twirl
Of smoke, Zelophedad’s daughters bringing
Biscuits, kinsmen coming up the footpaths,
Walking unguarded, one child holding its
Mother’s legs. With the Levitical priests,
Moses enjoins the statutes, offering
Holocausts on undressed stones, peace offerings,
Eating and making merry before God.
Then the Levites proclaim the twelve curses,
Indistinguishable from our own time,
After which the people answer amen.
With one hand he piles the undressed stones;
With the other he brings the ax stroke down.
The goat’s legs collapse, a rainbow coils
Under the surface of a distant cloud;
The children twist to see the hands dip down
Washed in blood. Light snow has been falling
Off and on this afternoon; Father coughs.
Sister rubs his feet with intimacy.
Someone she loves walked on water, leaving
No prints, no wake. Snow piles the corners
Of the rectory. Days after nights I
Dream, I sleepwalk, breathing, answering amen .