St. Charles Seminary
Jeanne Murray Walker
The Guernsey, chewing thoughtfully, might be
a neighbor looking out her window, watching novices
in orange sweatshirts trudge across the seminary lawn.
One’s slung a garbage bag over his shoulder,
the other carries a rake and trowel. Fresh from
their dawn Aves, they kneel before the congregation
of brown grass, as if to memorize the gospel of decay.
They practice the discipline of staying put.
They’ve broken their thoughts as a trainer breaks wild horses,
with halter and a bit of prayer. If their attention wanders,
it is not to the cities where they will be sent
separately this spring, with no women and no money,
one trunk of belongings, each. They glance
toward the Monsignor, whose mind is the vault
they think holds the map to places they’ve agreed to love,
who now stands behind them on the balcony,
his gloves draped in one hand like quiet animals.
He scans the dawn sky for clues to solve the riddle
of where they belong. A wooly caterpillar creeps
toward a low branch where it will spin a cocoon,
giving itself freely to what it doesn’t understand.
It arches its black back, as the holy virgin’s eyebrow
lifts to acknowledge the gifts of three wise men.