Saturday, April 9, 2011
I wrote this shortly after visiting Ireland in 2008. Specifically Trinity College and the Book of Kells. While that artifact contains only the four gospels of the Christian New Testament, here I imagine a similar artist at work on an older text.
Every morning, rekindling the fire,
washing his hands and face
in the basin of icy water,
gathering his parchments, Leviticus
illuminations from the night before,
trimming the wick on his candle,
he slips over his head
for a moment, he is engulfed—
the world stops, for a moment
just before his head rises above the collar—
his head, curving upward, throwing back the hood
Now, his real life begins
He begins by cultivating
sweet peas, potatoes,
tending the lambs in the pasture
the curling vines of the sweet pea,
the lambs, finding patches of clover
to rest, have, hold.
He remembers, later in his study,
the soft wool of the lambs,
the habit-forming scent
in the material.
He lifts his brush,
to the golden parchment—
fills Aaron’s robe
with the texture of fine-spun wool.
The Kohen, for his part,
knew the scent of wool
well he knew the drowning heaviness,
of the habit he wore.
Rising early to start the fire,
wash, habitually, in the basin,
tending carefully to the code—
cultivating a life
The lamb, who gave the robe,
given on the altar,
lifted above the priest,
above the people,
above the cloudy sky.
Atom by atom floating
over changes in landmass,
shared with all people,
finding its habitation in silk
spun from a lowly creature
(c) Sarah Shaffer 2008 All rights reserved