The National Catholic Review
That afternoon, a retarded boy wandered into the cloister.
I found him in the washroom. Short, awkward, incongruous,
he shuffled past the long line of urinals. I followed him
into the hall. I almost said Can I help you? like a salesman;
instead, Who are you looking for? He seemed to ignore or
not hear me at first, but when I touched him gently on the arm
he said, My father. He was unhurried, not upset that he was
lost, curious even. He gazed at me, looked down the hall,
then stared through the window to the autumn light,
the last few bees in the linden. No fear. As though the place
belonged to him. And it did; far more than to me or the other
scholars of the law who lived there, dozing over our
scriptures. We talked, walking slowly through the cloister.
I asked him questions, and some of his answers
astonished me. I steered him back to the porter’s desk
out front. When I opened the door, his parents looked up
eagerly, relieved, but not altogether surprised—that he’d
wandered off, or found his way safely back to them.

John Slater is a Cistercian monk (Brother Isaac) at the Abbey of Genesee in New York, where he works as a baker, plumber, gardener and caregiver for the infirm. His love and study of poetry has been lifelong.

Comments

muhammad ajaz | 6/4/2007 - 10:54am
I was moved by Brother's work. The depth is obvious and the material and story most moving. I would love to read some of Br. Isaac's other poems. Father Robert Bouchard (Diocese of Portland in Maine)

Recently in Poem