Charred in the charged moment
of his cry to the Lord, he is no more.
Wooden trunk in the sun,
burned past recognition,

tree or monk can no longer be seen
for who or what it was. What happened--
burned away. Photography cannot help,
burned as this one burned, from the inside

out, and outside in, set against sun and sky.
Yet here he is in the garden with me,
sitting on a stump beside him,
coming into focus. Made from a log,

size and shape of an ordinary man.
Holes drilled into the top of the log
on the side, ten inches down, to place
his outstretched arms. A chainsaw

has cut into the arms to place,
and hold, his opened hands--
hands and arms outstretched, open
and assenting to all that needed to take place

in order to make a perfect cross
burning a man. The monk in my head
tells me, Never love a cross, even in a garden.
This voice carries me through the Psalms

as I cross paths with the charred monk.
I see at the top, how the head has been placed
into the body, and the face, turned at an angle.
Burned out eyes and nose and mouth.

Eyes scraped open with a blade.
Shape of the nose remains, but the nose itself
has been disappeared, after-fact of fire.
The monk's back and shoulders

at the top of the log were created by careful
placement of his face in flames--flames burning
against the contour of the log--a face
reaching from a turn in its growth as a tree--

main branch turning towards the light.
The monk's face also retains the remnant,
or shadow, of a beard cut at a sharp angle,
to form his chin. There is a burned-out hole

where a heart should be, and one wonders
if birds nest in this emptiness. A monk's belt
from a white cotton rope is double-wound
around his waist with four knots cinching

and decorating charred remains in high ceremony.
Inexpensive beads have been placed on the monk's
right hand. Red and white beads discolored
by the sun. The monk's presence does not

tell his full story.
Did his mother receive the news?
Was he given a new name? Old name remembered?
Perhaps his voice in mid-syllable psalm

of praise and flame-frozen, waits in stone
to be heard, containing something
I don't yet know how to listen for.
Maybe that voice sang this morning

at Vigils, blending with others,
indistinguishable, an angel. It's odd.
His feet, bare. Weathered,
they have not been touched by flames.

Jim Bodeen
30 March 2008--4 April 2011
Christ in the Desert Monastery/Yakima

1 comment:

  1. now you have me falling for 'cross,' its life comes in so many directions, one word and such wonder, no cross in the garden, cross as in some visage of anger, cross as in a way to the other side, cross as in cross-hatching the artist shading, cross as in the sign of the... and of course so many others. such a huge contrast in what i see in your photos and the color of the pines here at sea level, almost black the pines in the foreground and the low hills behind, thanks for this, jb. kjm