In the Cave of Sister Mary Kevin, Ursuline

by Ken Ireland

She might have even been as Spartan as Father Ignatius
if her taste had not run to plastered walls, a few modest chintz prints
and poignant photos of helpless children.
You could have fed a child in Haiti for that price, Sister.

Alok asked me about priest-craft—
appeasing hungry ghosts with big bellies,
tight mouths, and one might presume assholes,
not to mention pussies. Forgive me, Sister.

The antidote contains no eyes, no ears, no tongue,
no body, no mind, no assholes
no thought, no perception, no old age, no ending of old age and death
—and no sex. You know that practice, Sister.

I knew, or at least said, more than I ought.
Phil told me that the rite was no more than sleight of hand:
chocolate, cardamom tea, ripe kiwis,
none of it really satisfying or nourishing.

Hungry ghosts think it’s dinner.
Anything looks like dinner when you’re starving.
Big bellies and big ears arise simultaneously –
evidence, your pictures of starving children in the Sudan.
Trick them. Stuff them with dharma.
No bellies. I know about greed first hand.

If you’d had just a little more imagination, Sister,
I might have discovered a unicorn in your garden,
a mythical beast. But no. It had to be a nasty tigress.
Her bad breath nearly killed me.

But right then and there
I stuck my head into her mouth,
to fulfill the requirement for courage,
no fear, no lipstick, no kisses.
Then I heard a small voice demanding attention –
Don’t be an asshole. Don’t arm your daemons.
No Crusades, no swords,
No preaching, no stones, no death.

And we were saved.
Thank you Sister.

to read more of my poems


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