By Scott Cairns b. 1954 Scott Cairns

—Katounakia, 2007

The cave itself is pleasantly austere,
                     with little clutter—nothing save   
a narrow slab, a threadbare woolen wrap,   
                      and in the chipped-out recess here   
three sooty icons lit by oil lamp.   
                      Just beyond the dim cave's aperture,
a blackened kettle rests among the coals,
                      whereby, each afternoon, a grip   
of wild greens is boiled to a tender mess.
                      The eremite lies prostrate near
two books—a gospel and the Syrian's
                      collected prose—whose pages turn
assisted by a breeze. Besides the thread
                      of wood smoke rising from the coals,
no other motion takes the eye. The old   
                      man's face is pressed into the earth,
his body stretched as if to reach ahead.
                      The pot boils dry. He feeds on what
we do not see, and may be satisfied.

Source: Poetry (January 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2009
 Scott  Cairns


Scott Cairns was born in Tacoma, Washington. He earned a BA from Western Washington University, an MA from Hollins College, an MFA from Bowling Green State University, and a PhD from the University of Utah.
Cairns is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Theology of Doubt (1985), The Translation of Babel (1990), Philokalia (2002), Idiot Psalms (2014), and Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems (2015). His writing has . . .

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SUBJECT Religion, Faith & Doubt

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