At the Monk-a-stery

By Lowell Jaeger

The monks wore brown bathrobes

all day long. And ropes for belts.

Not like the twine our uncles used

for baling, or the plain ropes

our sister twirled and jumped at school.

But shiny ropes knotted a special way.

 

And all of ‘em wore beards, which let us know

these guys likely moved over here

from some other town. A storybook

village maybe, where men cobbled shoes.

Not regular loafers that covered your toes.

More like Jesus-style, without socks.

Which is why He needed his feet washed

in the daytime, and we only took baths

on weekends before Mom drove us to church

 

where Reverend Al told us the monks

were a bunch of Russians, and Rooskies

stole the formula for the A-bomb, so

keep away.  If they had their commie plan

we’d all be Catholics and forced at gun-point

to live in a monk-a-stery.  All of us

wandering over the green lawns in brown

bathrobes.  And beards.  Sharpening

 

short knives they used to cut shoes

from cowhide.  This part about the sharpening

we knew because we’d hiked the rails

out of town and swore a blood brothers’ oath

we couldn’t tell nobody we’d been let inside

 

the monk-a-stery. And Brother Leo

walked us through the workshop where

beards bent over wooden benches,

slicing leather and hammering holy Jesus

shoes. In the dining hall, Leo’s pals

shook our hands, laughed, and dished us ice cream.

Homemade from Holsteins pasturing out back.

___

As founding editor of Many Voices Press, Lowell Jaeger compiled Poems Across the Big Sky, an anthology of Montana poets, and  New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from 11 Western states. His third collection of poems, Suddenly Out of a Long Sleep (Arctos Press), was published in 2009 and was a finalist for the Paterson Award.  His fourth collection, WE (Main Street Rag Press), was published in 2010.  He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.


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