An Old Greek Nun Recalls Her Youth

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An Old Greek Nun Recalls Her Youth

I never thought to spend my life alone.
On many nights my fingers conjured hands
that never grazed this curve, that secret moss
whose dampness Yannis (no doubt Nikos, too)
imagined, trembling, when he dreamt my shape.

One midnight, near the end of June,
I stood before the mirror, nude. In light
the candle scarcely whispered, I invoked
St. John, then slept content with ancient lore:
the name next heard would be my destined mate.

My father rarely swore. And yet, before
the dawn had touched one starling’s folded wing,
he stumbled on the stairs, and roused the house
with curses meant for heaven’s ear, not mine.
And so it was: his oath became my vow.

I told the abbess once, disclosing all
my sins, those fantasies I entertained
so long ago . . . but she’s forgotten now.
And since my ripeness faded, other joys
I’d not envisioned mellowed in their place:

monastic toil, perpetual repose,
the delicate incision prayer performs,
that one might taste the love which only comes
when nothing is expected in return,
our flesh a threshold of the infinite.