1405 c/o Rebecca Perry


We keep the pot still in the old prayer room.
It steams up the high windows and fuzzes over
the face of Saint Benedict we have framed above the door.
We lean our backs to it when we copy out scripture.
The wood is warm through our robes and eases our bones,
it smells like fire and makes our eyes sting.
Some of us think of it as a big heart, burning, bubbling.

During afternoon prayers Brother Deicola’s voice
had quavered through the corridors.
He tore at his belt, he cupped his red face in his hands,
he pressed his forehead to his brothers’ cheeks,
he lay down in the oratory and muttered
about salvation and a fire in the pit of his stomach.
His breath smelt like the prayer room.

We found Brother Ciaran beside an oak barrel;
splayed, florid, grinning like a mad man.
He begged us all drink from the barrel,
he told us we would all feel that the very breath of God
was in our throats, whispering to us His wisdom,
he called it aqua vitae, usquebaugh, he called it the water of life.
We offered our prayers and we drank.

Our bones were coaxed from the inside out,
we moved through the monastery as smoothly as ghosts.
We sang together in the courtyard so our voices
would best carry in the wind and up to the sky.
We vowed to cleanse the drink from orange to gold;
once for the Father, once for the Son and once
for the Holy Spirit; we slept in absolute peace.