by Shari Wagner
The Prayers of Saint Meinrad
Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Spencer County, IN
For more than a century, prayers like flakes
of snow have been falling. They drift across
the hillside and melt on each station of the cross.
They cover the graves where monks rest
beneath Gregorian chants, touch the Romanesque
spires of the abbey, soak into sandstone walls.
Vespers sweep through a corridor, past photographs
of young priests, to accumulate near St. Benedict
with his devoted crow and a gentle St. Meinrad,
his bare foot restraining the Devil’s fuming head.
Upstairs in the Chapter Room, a Belgian monk’s
passionate entreaties sting like a blizzard
descending from the ceiling, from the mural he painted
while World War II stoked its ovens. His supplications
appeal to Christ’s own book, Ego Sum Vita, “I Am Life,”
and fall swiftly from scaly underwater creatures
and bright beasts of the jungle, from every sign
of the zodiac swirling in God’s night sky.
Here at a fireplace or oven on the east shore of Indian Lake those Miamis that had comprised Papakeecha’s Band prepared their last meal before leaving tribal lands c. 1839.
–Roadside marker, Indian Village, IN
“Where is the oven?”
my daughter says, but there is
nothing, just a dirty white
truck, its bed backed
to the lake and a tattered
stand of old cat-tails,
stripped of their fleece.
Sun glints on a blanket
of ice, on one man hunched
over his fishing hole,
claiming the vacant space.
“How will he get home?”
my daughter wonders,
the shoreline melting
into porridge, thin and gray.