Nelson Island

 St. Nilus Skete, Nelson Island

Some nights when I wake to a child’s bad dream

or get up reluctantly to let the old dog out for a pee,

when rain and wind batter the black windows,

I think of the black-clad nuns

an island away across cold black seas,

each one rising faithfully for midnight prayers

leaving her warm bed in the darkness

walking the narrow, wooded path,

watchful for ice and spruce roots in the skittish leaps of a flashlight beam

Is she thinking of firewood in need of stacking, of berries or bears,

of an aching back, or remembering with pleasure a hot bowl of soup

Unless, each step toward the chapel is already a kind of prayer

Matins, both solitary and communal,

as so many things are—writing, reading, travel,

illness, dying, giving birth,

Yet isn’t it surprising, when we first meet the aloneness

and don’t we wish each person some comfort in the face of it

whether that’s God or love or mountains or a good dog,  

or this, the solace of returning to a warm bed,

to sleep under soft blankets