Thursday, April 29, 2021

On the Mount of Temptation

Twelve hundred feet up a sheer cliff,
through the winding passages
of a monastery carved into the rockface,
you come to a stone. A stone whose career
spanned forty days and forty nights,
two millennia ago,
and has not been sat on since.
A stone, complete with footrest
—that devil thought of everything!—
rising invitingly out of the solid mountain.
You yourself are shielded from the temptation,
by a considerate casing of glass,
leaving the holy seat secluded and unsullied.
Well, there are just some things
that you may travel the world to see,
only to find that someone else has decided
you still can’t touch them.
But your hand brushes the cool rock wall
on your way back down the twisting stairs,
rough-hewn edges worn smooth by the centuries,
and you enter the chapel, still encased
in the raw flesh of the mountain.
And there, beneath your palm,
throbs, slowly, an aeonic heartbeat,
a pulse that knows no difference
between cliff and wall and seat and stone,
between seeing and touching and blessing,
between itself and the planet it joins
a quarter mile below.
                                   And still
your fingers, even now, remember
how it felt when the temptations of the world
were traded for your soul’s desire.

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