Our Desert Fathers & Mothers deserted Rome
to pray and work in the wild, ora et labora.
Anthony the Great, Moses the Black,
Macrina the Younger, all hungry for hunger.
Solitude and silence, austerity and thirst,
sweet nectar of the desert’s prickly pear
and a life leashed and liberated by that
solitary Rule, ora et labora. Pray and work.
Of course, even St. Anthony was plagued
by temptations, dens of nasty demons
and bright silver platters and, I imagine,
by memories of Rome. But the burning
and the yearning—was that not the goal?
Not the nectar so much as the prick
of the pear; nor salvation from the desert
heat, but yielding to its refining Fire.
Arcane waters fashioned the high plains
and deserted us to the fires by which we must
learn to live and move and have our longings
shaped by the vagaries of weather
and the vicissitudes of prayer and violet
August skies alight with stars and burning
stars and the deathless wash of wind
upon this oceanic plain.