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The Cliff-Top Monastery

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the voyage of st. brendan

A cry of “Land!” A cliff face, iron ore red,
a monastery perched on top, gold-gilded.
The crew cast anchor, doggy-swam ashore
and surfed the scree slopes in buoyant uproar.

The summit gained, they gasped: seven monks
advanced in welcome, cooing like rock doves.
The ground was fire-grate ash, entirely barren;
reading looks, the eldest spoke to Brendan:

“We drink the dew. Our food arrives by raven,
one loaf one fish, our drop, our daily ration,
the bird so clockwork and plain bountiful.
Rest here, brothers. Come, observe our ritual.”

The monks performed a wordless parable:
seven stones in a fruit picker’s pail,
bird-skin robes. Cried Brendan: “Holy fathers,
bless you — these are quality palavers.”

The crew half-slept, that night, in golden cells,
their dreams hatchlings, their nerves eggshells.
Before the raven-dawn they fled in haste,
fearing their hosts’ hunger, and their faith.
Source: Poetry (May 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Cliff-Top Monastery

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