A fine day is best for this work –
we all agree – these long days,
when the sun rises at lauds with us,
follows us through the day.
Winter is hard: our fingers
stiffen and crack, we huddle
close together, as we file out,
making our way towards the chapel –
Prime, Terce, Sext – but days like this
when light falls brightly
through the high arched windows,
making the dust dance
like angels on the heads of pins – that,
and the mild buzz of Sister’s voice
reading from the endless Book –
send my mind slipping out
of this cool, scratch-filled room,
until I’m crouching once again
in the long grass of the bottom field,
bees bumbling round me, hawthorn scented,
watching the hares box in the meadow.
Sister Martha pulls me back
into the room. Such long, slow days,
of patient copying, words
punctuated by the bell: Sext, None, Vespers –
marching past. My fingers stained
with ink, not soil, or blood,
my body withering, not wearing out,
grinding the pigments with my hands,
not stirring soup, or pushing back
a child’s damp fringe. Maybe
it’s better so. A bride of Christ.
I’ve drawn a hare, armed him for battle.
I recollect myself, smile
at his long ears, turn back
to copying, watch the letters form
as my pen moves across the milky page.
The image is from pinterest: rabbit warrior Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, France ca. 1294-1297 (Boulogne-sur-Mer, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 130II, fol. 319v)