Brother Juniper Muses On The Morning He Is To Be Burned At The Stake

If you observe occurrences in Nature–the way a stone ripples the water,

The arc of a cormorant descending toward its prey–you will note

A precision in the movements which is utterly Pythagorean in its pattern

(Not that the natural world is without its inconsistencies;

The progress of a conflagration, for example, seems entirely random.)

It would seem that such a thing is good–no, more than that, entirely holy,

All that is necessary and sufficient to prove beyond doubt

That which is equally necessary and central to our belief:

A plan–His plan–which governs all things under the sun.

Such notions, I have found to my considerable dismay,

Do not sit well with viceroys and archbishops,

Who have a vested interest in the maintenance of certain mysteries

(To be fair, they are not evil or necessarily even impious;

They are men, nothing more or less, navigating perilous, unmapped straits

Between the secular and the sacred. At their appointed time,

They will have their own commissions and omissions to answer for.)

Nevertheless, none of us can escape the certainty that the root of our faults

Can be found at our own doorway, and I cannot deny that the attempt

To reduce God’s works to a schematic of formulas, diagrams and triads

And then trumpet, preening and squawking as a peacock,

The results to the world  (as if the mystery of faith

Would be nothing more than a handful of equations and charts)

Is simply the manure of arrogance, the flotsam of sinful pride.

I have had, these past few weeks, considerable leisure to pray and reflect;

My thoughts have not drifted, curiously enough, to the great and sweeping,

The grand and all-encompassing (perhaps due to the whys and wherefores

Of my current predicament, perhaps the narrow window of my enclosure),

But rather to the most pedestrian of things–the clarion of the wind in the trees

Prior to a summer storm, the lover’s dance of the hummingbird and the lupin,

And I am comforted (and, I confess, a bit amused) by the notion

That God may take a moment from his labors to watch them as well.


12 thoughts on “Brother Juniper Muses On The Morning He Is To Be Burned At The Stake

  1. I like and agree with what you’re saying – but honestly think when you look at it again you will find a form that works better with how you want the work to say.

    I know it’s all technique and structure and in these days each of us has a need to go for the heart and abandon the technique; but this matter is serious, and as said before dense. I think if you pared this to a sonnet or some rhyme form you would surprisingly find that beyond what you wanted to say you can layer in more meanings in the realm of faith, humor, and hypocrisy. It’s a noble draft, but I read it as a draft. A great work can be carved from it, I believe.

    1. I would, by and large, agree with you here; while I’m not sure something as structured as a sonnet would be the best final form for the piece (although it would be at the very least a useful intermediate step to sharpen the piece’s focus and improve the pacing), it is a bit clumsy and hesitant as it stands. As Mr. Bailey noted, there is a dense-ness here, and probably not in the good sense of “weighty” as much as “ponderous” or “turgid”. So I would not argue at all that there is some shoring-up which needs to be done here.

  2. You have drawn me in by intersecting the title of one of my favorite books by Thornton Wilder with my current area of study: the Trial of Galileo.

    Thank you, wk.

    1. I may have said this in a comment on your site, but I sometimes have the wholly un-supportable conviction that the book is actually about The Perichole and the Abbess. Now there’s a thesis that you’d never want to have to defend…

      1. Hmmmm….this is a veryinteresting thought. I don’t think Bridge is being taught in many schools. Recently, I tried ziplining in Hawaii. We had to walk over a scary bridge. I mentioned the title and not one of the other couples (all in their 20’s/30’s/40’s) said anything.

  3. Very beautiful and interesting.. and your words and lines paint a great image within my thoughts…
    I enjoyed your words…
    ‘But rather to the most pedestrian of things–the clarion of the wind in the trees
    Prior to a summer storm, the lover’s dance of the hummingbird and the lupin,’
    thanks for sharing..

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya

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