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by Ann E. Michael

When city lilacs bloomed I descended
rough steps risered into sandstone cliffs

under the ancient monastery and spent
half an hour cloistered with the dead

at Lavra-Kiev. I learned how strata crumble,
slowly, and geology may take the early saints’

small, carefully-dressed bodies into
the Dnieper’s current below, or deeper

under stone, but not for another thousand years.
Catacombs connect one millennium to the next,

full of the holy, a useful urge when
the tombs were scraped from sandstone

by willing hands with inspiration
enough to build a church upon.

None of this is visible to me, standing on
the compound’s cobbles late afternoon, no linked set

of shallow tunnels, neither catacomb nor saint,
not even the river at the soft cliff base.

Sun glares on the white walls, on what we know
and cannot see. The scent of lilac, the sting of cedar.


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