Sunday, October 1, 2017

"The Labyrinth"


Written at a poetry retreat led by Laura Boss and Maria Mazzioti Gillan

Mendham, New Jersey, October, 2001

It was free time during an intensive
weekend poetry retreat
I strolled the convent grounds
that warmish autumn day
to clear my head
of so many words and phrases
so many raging poems
about the World Trade Center
so many poems sprung from wounds
from love and death

I smiled at the sight of a nun
wearing a black and white habit
that grazed the russet ground
as she gracefully raked leaves
in a wide open field

“Sister,” I called
“you have quite a job there!”

She answered, but
not hearing her reply
I left the path
and approached her
She was Sister Julia, a novice
named for a thirteen-year-old martyr

Sister Julia was clearing leaves
from a circular brick-in-grass labyrinth
She told me what I hadn’t known
that a labyrinth isn’t a maze
but a unicursal
one path that leads to the center
and out again
She called it Chemin de Jerusalem[1]
a substitute for pilgrimage

I continued my journey
to the old cemetery
with its weather-beaten cement crosses
and to a nearly dry, leaf-strewn pond
then returned, because I had to
to the labyrinth

Entering, my spirit revitalized
as I stepped slowly within the bricks
joyfully reciting snippets
from Davidic, “Songs of Ascents”
and offering hymns and hallelujahs
At center, aliyah!

“My feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem”

and recalled, sweet as honey
so many years ago
when they actually were

I could almost hear the sound
of a distant shofar

Maude Carolan

[1] Road of Jerusalem

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