Michael Shepherd

Rookie (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! 'No Cell-Phones During Office Hours' - Poem by Michael Shepherd

‘The Rise and Function of the
Holy Man during Late Antiquity’
might sound as dry as desert sand,
or equally, excuse the pun, deserted…
but no, it holds a lively story:

the Christian world, gearing up
to tell the AD/CE world the bestest news;
the fervent, eager converts, wanting only
the time to cultivate their fledgling souls…
so where to retreat for this – the monasteries, of course..

wrong. The monasteries became compulsory
recruiting grounds for Church and for society:
a deacon needed for a distant land
to sort out heresies; an emissary
from this Christian nation’s court to that;
monks dragged out into the world
to rule unwieldy bishoprics…
administer, endlessly administer...

so the totally devout had no option
but to set off and become solitaries, hermits
further and further into the desert..there,
became holier and holier; then, accidentally, perhaps,
miracles began to be spoken of, around them;
they, half embarrassed, half amused,
accepting this as God’s strange requirement of them…

and then the wannabees and the true disciples
trekked after them; bedded down, built lodgings
for their devout B&B-ers, or
stayed to tend to the submissive saint;
consulted, questioned, hung around;
until finally, the patient but exhausted saint
took off for an even wilder place…
that’s why there are so many
monasteries in the desert lands…

meanwhile, advice from their superiors,
concerned for them, then followed them:
black out your window embrasures; put up notices
at the gate: ‘This is a silent zone between the hours
of 8 am and 8 pm’… (that should test their faith...): and
‘No talking during Lent’…

and when they trekked out to be in that sacred presence
of the truly holy man, they naturally brought gifts;
(and you can guess, there were lines which could be lifted
from ‘The Life of Brian’ – ‘I suppose a smallish miracle
would be too much to ask…? ’

It’s said that when they excavate,
those lonely hermits’ cells out in the desert are found
to be ‘like well-furnished consulting suites’…

There’s no joke like a holy joke…

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Poem Edited: Monday, April 25, 2011

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