Roads Walked and Barred

David Landrum


I pray for him each morning.
Denied a place where my virginity
could flourish, I became obedient
to a husband who joked on our wedding night 
how I had narrowly escaped 
having my pretty little thing
locked up where no one could enjoy it.
I feel my baby kick as I leave church
and wonder if the child leaps for joy
like John did in the womb of Holy Elisabeth
when she met Mary.
The convent was denied to me 
but I pray for Ambrosias each morning
here in church in the quiet of dawn,
before the heat of day, before the heat
of cooking. It is the only cool and quiet I know.


Mother said we paid our tithe to God.
Ambrosias, she said, went for a monk and I
should therefore marry. One from ten, she said,
sufficed. The priest agreed with her,
it was arranged. I tried not to be sad.
There are two roads, the abbess told me,
and they are equally difficult.
The road I walk is pain of childbirth,
pride of the world, my desire to my husband,
his ruling over me, and the future, so unknown,
filled with children yet unborn, sorrows
unlived—yes, joys as well, I will admit.
The path I was denied, she said, is a long, cold road,
like the snow on the distant mountains of Binalud,
austere and beautiful, yet not an easy way,
fraught with different perils: 
From those to whom much is given, she said, much is expected.


There are the dances, the feasts,
the pleasure of intimacy, the joy
of carrying a child. On the road barred to me 
there would have been consecration, the silences
I long for filled with God, the joy 
of living life wholly to the Lord.
Misunderstanding, strife at times, comes
between my husband and me, and my parents
and his. I haggle in the market place,
broken things are never fixed, and constant work
wears me out. The convent, I imagine,
has its own set of pains—I know in fact, 
I have been told as much, and when 
I was a little girl some nuns were kind 
but some would slap my face and call me dolt 
when I got my catechism wrong.
Dust settles on the shoulders of shepherd and king,
and the dust of sin could even creep
into a holy place. I should have no illusions about that.
The pleasure of a nun is to be stoled
in her virginity, white as egret’s down,
as stars, moonlight, carried to heaven
in a vessel filled with her unmingled essence. 
I am a vessel pierced, but the cicatrix 
is children, pleasure, attraction of warmth,
obedience to the first command to bear
fruit, multiply, and fill the earth, 
the task given to Eve, Mother of all.


  1. imepw says

    Presuming David is a man, he is precocious in understanding the schizophrenic lives
    of persons (his wife?), with one foot wedded and fruitful in the marital life, yet the other
    foot longing for the intimacy of spousal union with Him. The wife had strong desires to
    fully embrace consecrated life. There also exists myriads of persons who actually did,
    but then were torn from their exalted state only to find, as my understanding husband sometimes reminds me,”you can take a girl out of the convent, but you can’t take the convent out of the girl.” So life is lived in constant tension and wonderment of a God who appears
    to be playing games, yet hopefully one will share His last laugh.