Apprentice in Black

You were always the most faux devout convert,
eager for any whiff of arcana. I haven’t

seen you in years, I jumped when I picked out your head,
almost shaved, dented in the right upper quadrant

with the signature scar. The beam
of your smile’s the same as you turn to me,

put down your Galoises, grinning, the poised,
smoking acolyte. We touch, and I fall,

a noted mark for your style. But then
I’m accustomed to your virtuosic conversions,

this time knocked from your Florentine flat
by the visitation of a bleeding, obscure saint.

The orthodox vision makes me suspicious. This time,
is it real? We stroll under the umbrella pines,

I suppose we make an odd pair, the natives nod
as they catch our eye. Your passion and passable

Greek must be what intrigues the Black Monks hungry
for postulants. You get a cell on the Aventine,

three meals and an insider’s view of the divine.
You’ve taken to waking at four in the morning to kneel

at the window, singing your office while the Tiber
falls. You say you feel cleansed, not yourself,

but another, an envelope of vapor
poised over the river. I try to believe it

as you, vapor and brother, pick a piece
of tobacco from your lip. We’ve walked through

the green Aventine streets to a clean sanctuary.
You cut through the deep pines lining the abbey,

black cassock trailing in the weeds. You have
no legs, the weeds carry you along.






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