The Halfway House, Part XIII        

The hermits, scattered in their caves, accept

with smiles the pourboire of the passer-by:

‘Here's ten sestertii to get a cup

Of coffee with: and please remember, I,

Who gave you this, am thirsty, starving, apt

Among my souvenirs to give up hope:

Your need is nothing to my own.’ They cast

The shuttle of their prayers among the fast

     Colours of eternal day.


In ones, and twos, these hermits, skilful, steep

The problems of the passer-by in pure

Disinterested love. From time to time,

They sing, their single voices rising sure

Above the broken noises of the clap

Trap world that journeys by them. In the same

Embracing gesture of the heart, they hold

On to the sad deserted ones like gold,

     Seeing in each Christ hidden here.


At night they startle snuffling beasts, who find

Them robed in sheets of stone, dissembling sleep,

Their tired eyes open on the other side

Of things. They suffer silently the deep

Estrangement they have ventured on, the friend

Who for a friend has gone alone ahead,

And prays a lifetime, speechless, in a cave

That he, repenting, may pass by the grave

     Business of lying

     In the desert, dying

          Of want of love.


And so the passer-by who tries to tell

Why each whole-hearted hermit came to stay

Alone with God, will hear him, silent, say:

‘In loving Him, I have loved you as well.’