Scott Cairns (b. 1954)
The cave itself is pleasantly austere,
with little clutter—nothing save
a narrow slab, a threadbare woolen wrap,
and in the chipped-out recess here
three sooty icons lit by oil lamp.
Just beyond the dim cave's aperture,
a blackened kettle rests among the coals,
whereby, each afternoon, a grip
of wild greens is boiled to a tender mess.
The eremite lies prostrate near
two books—a gospel and the Syrian's
collected prose—whose pages turn
assisted by a breeze. Besides the thread
of wood smoke rising from the coals,
no other motion takes the eye. The old
man's face is pressed into the earth,
his body stretched as if to reach ahead.
The pot boils dry. He feeds on what
we do not see, and may be satisfied.
Source: Poetry Magazine, the Poetry Foundation (January 2009).
Scott Cairns (PhD University of Utah) is an American poet, memoirist, librettist, and essayist. He is the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair in English at the University of Missouri.