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The first afternoon in the monastery
brings a brother to tell us
to live into our gifts.

Study that does not lead to prayer
is dishonesty, he tells us.
Too much studying is why we’re here.

The dying monks chant Vespers,
and two oxygen machines fill the silence
of full breaths between psalm lines.

One sucks in the nave’s air
and plays Ping-Pong with its mate
across the chapel.

The artificial breathers
antiphonally chant on their own time,
with their own dynamic, sustaining, and tonic accents.

God lies in those breaths between lines,
the brother told us earlier.
The machines announce His presence.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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