St Clare of Assisi

Memories of large G&Ts on the roof of the convent in Assisi looking out over the Umbrian plain before dinner.

Of the bells at Santa Chiara ringing out, marking the days and hours and offices.

Of the colours – browns and ochres and oranges and rich greens.

Of the smells of olives and lemons and garlic and rosemary and warmth.

Of the laughter and fun and prayer and contemplation and pondering poverty.

I’ve lived in the labyrinth, love its scrubbed walls, doors whose thresholds lead to the brass basin, worn where a sister’s foot soaks warm in my loving hand. Portals here billow into linen albs, their shadows arching into gates through which Saracen horses pound toward their own retreat; the blinding ciborium whirls warriors, spins our lacing bobbins. Winter roofbeams groan their vows beneath God’s weight, His rough beard scratches the eaves like a storm of olive branches.

I’ve embraced the labyrinth, the basin’s womb become a mirror for seeing around corners; looked into, it’s the crucifix that spoke to Francis, Christ’s wounded, bent face now a lucid window into my own riddle recumbent on the stone pillow. On the roof God hops, sparks in a gossip of sparrows. Small, brown, winged, my soul flits through death’s dark mirror, into light.

from Letter to Agnes, in Clare, A Light in the Garden, p96


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