SKELETON IN A SPANISH CLOISTER (© Words by Paul F. Cowlan)

Turned at the squint,
from the geranium-red cloister
and the splayed ribs of ‘Santa Maria del Sar,’
Ladderback prays,
with a suggested clack of metacarpals
and locked genuflexion.

"Queen of this cock-eyed chapel.
The air is stale,
the students scattered.
Grant Brother Bono his medical."

His slumped pericranium spurns us.
(Our scuffing whispers and revealing clothes.)
Night and day.
Night and day.

Once,
under wattle of flesh and sinew,
the world itself was hosted here
beneath a simple tonsure.
He read, prayed, spoke little.
Did what he could.

But Death has debauched him into unseemly nakedness,
propped him up shamefully;
while Galen and Hippocrates have kept his web of lathes intact.

Seven sins;
Contumely of The Cloth;
The mad, sad, vicious ‘Holy Office.’
His conscience rarely slept.

But he was dutiful,
and ventured only in secluded prayer
to call down green-shod Love,
innocent as Paschal virgins,
soothing the gat-toothed, stubbled land
into sweet, wind-blown fields,
and woods mellifluous with birds.

Now he re-dedicates these heresies:
penurious guilt, abstracted from the poor;
and goading homilies,
deflected by a black lace fan or twirled pommander.

Time, he lost count of long ago
- the bite of bright sleet at the pane,
snapped lilies,
relentless dawns -
and, with no scope for sin, he begs for dissolution.
"Translate me to that purer sky,
beyond the dreamer's dream within a dream,
where these scooped sockets brim with light,
and transubstantiated dust
floats in a wraith of gold on God's breath.

Madre de Dios!
Collapse this cobwebbed scaffold.
Let the forgetful doctors resurrect a new fugitive.
Shake out this sheaf of rattles,
number each spar with fallen sparrows,
and make a vacancy at this high window."