The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Joan Colby
The Seven Heavenly Virtues
Folds its hands like a nun. Wears the grey cape
of history. Walks along the barricades,
eyes averted. Its music: the waves'
persistence inserting caves in rock.
A mist curtains its abbreviations.
Pedals the unicycle, shuffles beneath the banyan
holding an alms bowl. It suffers.
Won't permit the dispensation
of the bishops. Knows how the future
can be foretold, but closes its thin
unforgiving lips. Adds and subtracts.
Illuminates the manuscripts. Licks stamps.
Sits on a metal bench in the square
where a Civil War general is honored.
Interprets your dreams but won't
let you recall them. Holds your body
as you sleep, not a lover, a biographer.
Quickens your heartbeat in an irregular
Polka. Misses the stomp of levity. Patience,
sober as a hermit, knows the industry
of your life will continue
whether you purchase the lottery ticket
or think that leaping
in front of a locomotive might
Scrubs the floors, scours
the milk cans, washes the clothes,
the windows, the children, the hands
of the homeless, the walls of the
fallen, the dreams of the vanished.
Rises at dawn to the task
of raising the sun over the edge
of the morning, banishing the stars
arranging the winds
from the west and pouring
light over the world like a blessing
Diligence gathers the kindling
for the fires of the homestead,
fixes the broken and mends
the news of the day for the lax
and the wary Rings the angelus
at the appointed hour and never forgets
how work is the
axle on which all things turn.
Crouches in ashes like a girl
in a fairy tale thinking not of a
glass slipper but how to be good.
Speaks quietly like a monk
walking the stone maze of prayer.
Chooses a hut and the coarse robe
of the unworthy, the undeserving.
Kneels in the sanctuary of the spirits
asking permission. Kneels on rock,
on earth, on all that is hard and ungiving.
Accepts nothing, needs nothing, is nothing.
Nothing but the one sparrow
that God watches.
A grey goose in a nanny cape,
Kindness opens the picture book
and everything begins to rhyme
as it should in the world of
cruises the calm seas,
white sails rigged
to catch the faintest breeze
and slice the amenable waves
like a wedding cake.
Waltzes in a ballroom of smiles
bestowing wishes on the multitude.
Kindness, like a genii, comes at night
with a magic lamp to ask you what you want,
without riddles or trickery.
Lemon drop that sweetens
the tongue. Letter of condolence.
Drinks the milk of moderation
from a white mug. Sets the table
with a checked cloth and serves a dish
not too hot, not too cold. Sweeps the rooms
with the straw broom of clarity knowing
how too much is always
more than enough.
Give Temperance a cause and she
will shoulder her hatchet,
head for the black saloon
where imbibers down
shots and beers to bolster wrath,
go home to beat their wives.
Temperance raises a hand
and says No. No,
You will not.
Enfolds an armful of roses, a copper coin
for the poor box, a basket of apples
for the hungry, silks for the naked,
milk for the newborn, kisses for the
unloved, herbs for the sick, prayer
for the dying.
Charity carries stones to remind the world
of want. Tosses them into still waters
where the unlucky are banished. These
are the circles of Charity spreading forever
outward to tell us how need is endless.
An immaculate room in the temple
where a vestal virgin knits
the shawl of purity
that warms no one.
Chastity renounces the body
as base. Wakes at night to wrestle
the dark angel of desire.
Reads the missal of celibacy.
Practices the anorexic
worship of bones. Inhabits
an upstairs chamber with one
barred window. Scans for the
Constellation of Virgo. The singular
maiden. Nun in the habit. Star
in the crown.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication