Paul Nelson

The Monastery 

bees in a hive at dawn
praying for the world
humming high on the riven road
that winds higher and higher
from where I live
under Mt. Ka’ala’s head in steam
leaving me winded in the lush
chaste air of the rainforest
flushed beneath the flaming
canopy of Royal Poinciana
reminding myself I’ve come
for the essence of lehua blooms
the special stuff of special bees
of which I know so little
living things in cells
hymning in Eden
I am too old for solace
or to be forgiven
too old for guile
in this beauty
this innocence
There are no snakes in Hawaii
though some depraved local returning
some nasty tourist
or kid Benedictine wishing to be perfect
will someday bring one
a gravid brown tree snake
that ate the last song bird (a Shama Thrush)
on pulverized Guam
or venomous Aussie gwardar in luggage or cargo
or inland taipan
most venomous in the world
a mulga coiled in the business
of United’s wheel well
Sister says Aloha
as if I’d been before
like the crease in her forehead
that comes and goes
I look down and away over the ocean
curving east and west and away due North
while she confides she has a new batch
from April blooms
just for me
She is lovely
and I want some
Have I sloughed a skin here
in some other life
Hawaii famed for extinct species
so it doesn’t matter now
or mean enough to Sister
born Hawaiian
without an enemy of God
She has received from Lyon
cedar boxes fashioned by brethren
as if for shoes
I could buy one Sister wheedles
to hold my ashes
where I choose
their own in the small crypt
lying together in the dark
like bottles of wine
beneath their crystal blue
stained glass Lady of Tears
Would she bother to hustle the young
who love to lie in the dark
Too early for chaos and ashes
I need no change
shouldering my half gallon
stuffed in my backpack
say Aloha and leave
knees carping downhill
Sister up there with her heavy bees
her blessing and my scented box

Paul Nelson’s latest of eight books is Burning the Furniture (Guernica Editions, 2014). His work has won the AWP Award for Poetry, the University of Alabama Press Series Award, and an NEA Fellowship. For a decade, he was Professor/Director of Creative Writing, Ohio University, and after years on O’ahu, he now lives and writes in Sequim, Washington. By earlier life a Downeaster, he is back in the light he was born to, the high north 40s.



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