From an ongoing project in which I reflect on what St Thérèse of Lisieux may have written to her spiritual director, Père Almire Pichon. All the letters she sent to him in actuality have been destroyed.
The tunnel through the mountain,
its black rush, crash of sound –
o my father, is this head-on death?
I have hankered after martyrdom,
the drama of severance, and yet
the sheer void, the long-drawn
clamour of hollowed-out rock –
a nothingness I had not intimated,
nor had I prepared for the shock
of hurtling back into the light.
I have retrieved, Mon Père, the grace
of clumsiness. Just now I dropped
my copybook: its cracked spine
fractured all my limping words;
earlier I knocked the bread
from basket to refectory floor;
for penance, I wear broken crusts
around my neck. I think of them
as sacramental; rough-cut hosts –
and I their battered chalice.
With all my clumsy sentences and songs
I hope to make you smile, Mon Père,
the way a child delights her mother’s heart,
or a poor girl, given fine sandwiches
dreams against the tree, while Papa casts
for the bon mot, a flash of fish –
it seems I have one bouquet I can share,
the holy moment of the lips and eyes
as though I tender in my catch of time
a little sliver of eternity.
© 2019, Sarah Law
SARAH LAW lives in London and is a tutor for the Open University and elsewhere. Widely published as a poet, she edits the online journal Amethyst Review, for new writing engaging with the sacred.