for Maria

In a convent in Lisieux, or Augusburg, or Avila,
an old woman, dishabille,
lies sleeping in a narrow bed,
moonlight speckling her untroubled face.
It is winter, a time of waiting.
It is always winter in this place,
vines no longer creeping,
trees crippled by a blue frost crawling
along their green veins.
The old woman sleeps, peacefully, through each season, 
never pondering or worrying her redemption
any more than she worries that her lilies
might not return in the spring. Everything is certain. 
Otherwise she would not be here among so many women 
so certain of how things will end for them.

I wonder if she knows why the lilies return,
how they lie buried, sealed in brown bulbs, sucking in water,
biding their time but always yearning to feel the sun, 
desiring not the idea of the sun but its very heat, 
how the promise of the actual physical heat of it 
causes them to burst out and up, still rooted, yes,
but also leaning, in day’s light, with an intense ardor; 
how at night they close up, become introspective,
considering their loss.
While the old woman lies buried
in the husk of a bed made centuries ago,
postponing everything in hopes of a final, deeper sleep, 
her lilies would give up their cool slumber,
would shed their thick skin again and again,
for one moment of pleasure.

And this is why, after orgasm, a woman sometimes weeps, 
knowing that in that one, exquisite moment
she has given up everything for something as distant
(yet palpable) as the sun, real and unreal,
and this is how wanting begins, how desire takes its shape, 
not from the absence of things, but from the loss of them, 
and this is why redemption can only be found
in the physical fact of ourselves,
in the way our bodies, sunless,
come together in the blue night,
passing the ineffable light back and forth.