Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk 3

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Old Monk longs to be a recluse on Cold Mountain,
removed from the litter of broken lives.
She wants to write poems in haze-hidden mountains,
slopes afire with wildflowers.
Old Monk desires to dip her pen in the dark blue ink of sky
and compose on rice paper awash with sunlight.
Will someone please tear this terrible lust from Old Monk.
Hurry, hurry…before the neighborhood children see it in Old Monk’s eyes.

The flesh pots of Egypt always tempt and beckon. Isn’t 40 years in the inner-city enough? Don’t I deserve to be left alone to read and write. Isn’t it time to join the Chinese and Japanese hermit monks of yore that I so admire? But then I remember Dan Berrigan’s advice: “Decide where you stand. And stand there.” I made my decision long ago--I stand with the children. So when the temptation to flee strikes, I open my copybook to the words of Jean Donovan, the lay missioner raped and murdered in El Salvador in 1980. She wrote in a letter, “Several times I have decided to leave. I almost could except for the children, the poor bruised victims of adult lunacy. Who would care for them? Whose heart would be so hard as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.” Not mine, either.