In Search of a Chapel Built in Our Midst

Perhaps it’s best not to speak for a while.
A vow of silence. An hour at least, maybe
two. An entire day, whole, self-contained,
its own thesis, my presence not needed as
proof of anything. I may be struck dumb
already, just unaware. I move to speak,
choosing a word for texture, for resilience,
a sense of refreshing falling over me, others
nodding to keep me thinking I’ve been
heard. So difficult to know the penance
one is doing for some past choice in need
of forgiveness. Is tripping on the sidewalk
penance? Is losing one’s keys? Being lost
on mountain roads? What about cancer,
mudslides, tsunamis, fires on the horizon?
Whose penance requires standing before
a cliff for three full minutes, deciding to
step back? Perhaps it’s best to take a vow
of not trying to understand our thoughts.
What sense in how the light stuns beautiful
a spider web brushed from porch columns,
rebuilt overnight? What sense in Blake’s
human form divine, in priests in black gowns
making their rounds, graves where flowers
should be? No wonder the world is remade
in a sparrow’s eye, in whispers between
whispers we attempt to share, in prayers
slipped in between the prayers we pray.
No wonder the words of a poem are not
the ones we hear nor the ones the poet,
searching an hour’s lack, wrestles into
place, the silence suddenly more silent,
deeper and farther than first conceived.

Jeff Hardin

Jeff Hardin

Jeff Hardin is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being, No Other Kind of World, Small Revolution, and Restoring the Narrative. His work has been honored with the Nicholas Roerich Prize, the Donald Justice Prize, and the X. J. Kennedy Prize. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Hudson Review, The Laurel Review, Hopkins Review, Copper Nickel, and many others. His seventh collection, Watermark, is forthcoming in early 2022. He lives and teaches in Tennessee.
Jeff Hardin

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Author: Jeff Hardin

Jeff Hardin is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being, No Other Kind of World, Small Revolution, and Restoring the Narrative. His work has been honored with the Nicholas Roerich Prize, the Donald Justice Prize, and the X. J. Kennedy Prize. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Hudson Review, The Laurel Review, Hopkins Review, Copper Nickel, and many others. His seventh collection, Watermark, is forthcoming in early 2022. He lives and teaches in Tennessee.