SISTER THOMAS ON THE PRACTICE OF DISTANCE
. . . a native . . . a glorious example of the converting grace of
God. To hear the word of Life this native would travel over
every part of the island . . . fearing she might lose a single
gospel sermon. She was a woman of no ordinary mind.
Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield, St. Helena and the Cape of Good Hope: Incidents in the Missionary Life of the Rev. James McGregor Bertram of St. Helena, 1852
Shoes on my feet, I am climbing,
once again the girl born on an island,
climbing like a prayer
I am a simple woman given to simple speech
and there is no one plainer tho I burn
bright - a newborn star - when I am
as the sun hits the backs of my eyes
where letters burn black.
In the wind - the names of cities:
Paris, London, haunting our young.
Burn the ships! Put up the jetties! Fold them
like linens for which there is no more use
and the ocean will wash, wash,
wash away those punishing dreams
and where there is noise there will be silence.
Sun in my eyes, shoes on my feet,
girls born on this island
climb mountains of prayer
for they know they are at anchor.... more »
SHE KNEELS, THE GOOD SISTER THOMAS, NATIVE
My lips bear witness. Distemper!
Those who chain Sunday
from the doors of their week,
how flaccid their Amens,
how thin their charity.
Take this, my body.
I make my bed -
earnest as salt -
in your promises -
all vanities will be laid low,
even to the ocean's floor.
And waves will be
wreaths of white,
our bridal skirt,
and we will glory-glory!
in the name of the sword
that will cut them,
in pieces, in pieces
like rude weeds
in a good man's
vin-n-n-n-nnn-ne-yard.... more »
SISTER THOMAS SEES A TERRIBLE BEING
And now, not night, not day.
Something ignited just here,
under the eyelids, stays chilled.
Chill in the marrow of the chest,
legs, arms, the forehead.
And the heart - bird - at rest . . .
a man, not man, not beast,
all that is earth and clumsy
above even a steeple
a shadow, visiting the surface
like a moth, a name you would find
in the good book a man
not man, not beast like
a creature with dusty wings,
a moth of a man
a bat of a man
who can never hear this world
or smell it circling him,
or touch it as it reaches
through the air trembling
to touch to trace
such contours the terrible
shadow of his path pointing
without hand speaking without tongue.
You remembered me, oh Lord,
and sent me an angel whose face
stings me, whose sad heart
hangs its shadow, like the scroll
of a terrible book, upon the branches
of my belief.... more »