Friday, September 18, 2009

Morning Prayers


Ecce iam noctis tenatur umbra,
lucis aurora rutilans coruscat...

Lo! the dim shadows of the night are waning;
Radiantly glowing, dawn of day returneth...
- The Mundelein Psalter

At the four quarters stand pots of the Middle
Jōmon, earth, air, fire and water, great coil
pots with lips aflame, in prehistoric splendor.
Each pot stands within the ponderous doors of
its wing of this domed Greek-cross chapel.

Unitarian monks enter, single file, east and
south through bronze doors given last summer by
the mother of a novice who succumbed suddenly
to leukemia. The grateful mother of a son the
brothers here had reclaimed from the street.

Shaved-head monks run fingers crooked and
straight, gnarled fingers of arthritics,
delicate, refined fingers of aesthetes, through
primal fire blazing in the southern pot, then
place hands over beating heart in silent prayer.

At the eastern portal, unshorn monks lower rough
bearded faces, freshly washed of all taint of
sin, to breathe in the sweet, pure air of the
redeemed cosmos from consecrated pot, then carry
this air in their lungs to the altar.

Universalist nuns enter, three abreast, kiss
holy icons of Sophia and Her Daughters, Faith,
Hope, and Charity; north and west through
solid oak doors they come, doors carved
by itinerant artists for food and a bed.

Nuns with virgin hair flowing down their backs
come in by the west gate, dipping tips of
fingers into the pot, then touching pure lips
with the water of life. In the instant of that
touch, their voices open and rise in joyful song.

Through the northern door, nuns with hair
cropped at the scalp come, reach hand into the
sacred jar and lift earth to smudge the cares
and inscribe the glories of this world onto
their foreheads. They enter, naked feet pounding.

Nuns and monks together, rainbow robes a
flowing, form a great circle under the chapel
dome. Oldest monk and oldest nun open darkened
lanterns to bring forth lighted candles. These
they entrust to youngest nun and youngest monk.

Monk and nun together kindle the crystal chalice
on the altar at the circle's center. This
faithful band joins hands together, singing,
dancing their morning prayers to Life, and Hope,
and the unutterable Mystery of being.

Incense, both acrid and sweet, wafts up into the
plain whitewashed dome, hanging, swirling just
below the lantern. "Whatever guilt the night
has brought, now let it vanish into air.
Beautiful feet move gracefully, joyfully.

Sunlight pierces the oculus through, accenting
the smoke of the incense. Rich odors linger
on skin and robes. With light's appearance,
singing and motion cease. All stand in silent
wonder at the day's arrival, its coming.

Wonder fades as light pervades. The circle turns
facing out. Chosen representatives of the holy
community at this Abbey of the Reconciliation,
bare feet beautifully, barely touching the bare
stone floor, run to fling wide the solid doors.

Chalice flame extinguished, the community leaves
rainbow robes of celebration for denim and khaki
garments of service. The sun, whose mystic beams
pierced the chapel oculus, will soon burn off the
fog and dew, will soon demand its sacred due.

© 2009 by Paul Kent Oakley


gautami tripathy said...

It has that surreal spiritual feel to it. I liked it and will re-read it.

tale of two toes

Derrick said...

Hello Paul,

This is an epic. I enjoyed experiencing the ritual, the many followers, the sights and sounds.

Anonymous said...

From Therese B. at RWP -- The formal regularity of the quintains are appropriate for this poem which closely describes one scene of formal ceremony.

Deb said...

I'm always amazed by those who can write narrative epics!

Nathan said...

You've got incredible use of detail here.

briarcat said...

I love the transformation at the end.

davidmoolten said...

This sustains a real aura of serenity and peaceful ritual throughout. The ending adds a nice enigmatic touch.

Linda said...

The spirituality and serenity bring me into the place of this narrative where I become an observer of the ceremony taking place. I enjoyed your arrival of the day at the end. Thank you.

Donald Harbour said...

There is so much activity in this poem, so many directions symbolic of religious fervor, as well as a multitude of purifying unctions I feel that I've been cocooned in the warmth of sanctity. But alas the ending sends me out into the fields in my Chinos and loafers. Do we really pay the price or are we a plurality filtering through the porous boundaries of faith. Maybe not what you meant, but what I received. I enjoyed your poem, talent is abundant in it.

Francis Scudellari said...

The ritual is described beautifully and conveys a great sense of the sacred. I like the repetition in lines such as "bare feet beautifully, barely touching the bare
stone floor."

Tumblewords: said...

Surely, I feel as if I were present. Wonderfully descriptive phrasing and flow.

Jeeves said...

Enjoyed this one

EKSwitaj said...

This is very powerful on many levels; the imagery and rhythm are two of them. I'll need to take more time on the piece to understand them all--to sit quietly with it in mind, I mean.

Raven's Wing Poetry said...

I have no words to describe how I feel after reading this piece. It evoked such joy from me, it moved me to tears. Thank you very much for sharing this. I think I needed to read something like this today.


Wayne Pitchko said...

nice ojne...thanks for sharing

name said...

I was right there in my rainbow robe, lifting earth from the jar.

I don't 'imagine' that any apologies are needed!

djvorreyer said...

Each order having a different part of the ritual and the elements was very interesting.