Procession of All Souls
Gnarled and blessed
be the hour of autumn
when spotted pears sink
into wet sod, and blessed be
the songs of virgins rising
into the hunchbacked trees.
Down damp stone stairs
we followed the priest,
past leaf-choked wells
and jagged trees,
past the red rage of dogwood
ringing a black lake.
Dies Irae, he intoned,
Dies Illae, day of wrath.
We followed his swinging
censer, trail of smoke:
schoolgirls in gray, novices
in white veils, nuns in ragged black
tapping tortoise canes.
What joy to bear the fear,
to smell orbs of incense
perfuming the rot of leaves,
to cross the stubbled field
as crows rushed and whirled,
pecking at windfall seeds.
We arrived, rainsoaked, awed
to watch young nun-brides
kneel, and spread their thin bodies
across green doors of graves.
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