The Cloister of Bones

03-04 Ni Cuilleanain
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Irish
b. 1942

I begin from the highest point,
Best of all a belltower.

I see the tops of heads, cobbles,
Terraces all scuttling down
As if they hunted something buried
Between ledges where tables are set in the morning,
Under plants that grow over walls and pergolas,
The slopes of sheds, the stashed pruning-shears,
Under the measured walk of cats.

I am searching for a shape, a den, watching
For the cloistering blank of a street wall,
A dark reticence of windows
Banked over an inner court,
Especially rooves, arched and bouncing
Naves; a corseted apse,
And always, even if the chapel sinks
Deep inside, lit from a common well,
I search for hints of doors inside doors,
A built-in waiting about
Of threshold and washed floors,
An avid presence demanding flowers and hush.

If I guess right I hope for
A runner of garden, the right length
For taking a prayerbook for a walk,
A small stitching of cemetery ground,
Strict festivals, an hour for the tremble
Of women’s laughter, corners for mile-high panics:

And to find the meaning of the women’s Christmas.

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