Several years ago my husband and I travelled to Italy, wending our way rather blindly through the quieter hills and villas of Umbria.  We managed to meander to the town of Norcia, which sits at the edge of a sort of National Park and is coincidentally–and no less significantly–the birthplace of St. Benedict, of the Benedictine Order.

Several years after this first visit we returned to Italy and Norcia with two of John’s children and spent a brief but significant afternoon in the church or duomo there.

It is–or, rather, was, as it was devastatingly hit during one of Italy’s recent 2016 earthquakes–a lovely and humble building of simple white stucco and a cieling of dark, exposed beams.  It stands in stark contrast to many Italian churches, most notably St. Peter’s at the Vatican.

These few lines are mere meditations on that building and the palpable silence one cannot help but find there.  A polished poem could some day be pulled from these.


St. Benedict’s

A stucco hush allays the blundering noise

of travelers.


A skirt of pressed and wrinkled cotton bends

beneath a hollowed lap, and the body forms

a zed.


A stacatto hush will soon dispel bewildered cries

that rise outside the narrow door

and fall to a melancholy murr inside the duomo.


We cross and pull our cotton skirts from tired legs

bring creaky thighs and cooling scarves

to penitence


The vows of Benedict are borne and gleaned

in weight of beams above our light-filled eyes,

a beam so often washed by dust it has filtered into history