Robbie Gamble

                      Reading from the Desert Fathers at the Laundromat

Just reopened under new management:
longer hours, cleaner tiles, the same broken dryer.

A certain brother went to Abbot Moses and asked him for a good word. And the elder said to him: Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.

The small room at the back
shelves and shelves of tiny boxes:
Tide, Wisk, Bounce.
The old man who sat there silently
all those late afternoons, gone now.

Abbot Anthony taught Abbot Ammonas, saying: You must advance yet further in the fear of God. And taking him out of the cell he showed him a stone, saying: Go and insult that stone, and beat it without ceasing. When this had been done, St. Anthony asked him if the stone had answered back. No, said Ammonas. Then Abbot Anthony said: You too must reach the point where you no longer take offence at anything.

One of the elders said: Just as a bee, wherever she goes, makes honey, so a monk, wherever he goes, if he goes to do the will of God, can always produce the spiritual sweetness of good works.

The dryers spinning clockwise, always clockwise, I imagine the whole world over.

I could not tell you how many other patrons are here today; we all practice custody of the eyes. We are folding our sheets, marrying socks, making mental grocery lists with absolute concentration.

The windowsill library of Auto Traders and real estate circulars, yellowing.

It was said of Abbot Agatho that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent.

I separate my lights from my darks
and take care not to overload
the machines. My shirts emerge
white, but still there are dog hairs
on everything.

Abbot Mark once said to Abbot Arsenius: It is good, is it not, to have nothing in your cell that just gives you pleasure? For example, once I knew a brother who had a little wildflower that came up in his cell, and he pulled it out by the roots. Well, said Abbot Arsenius, that is all right. But each man should act according to his own spiritual way. And if one were not able to get along without the flower, he should plant it again.

It came to me: rise up, go out from this place, from the murmuring dryers and the whine of the spin cycles, from the pall of Fresh Spring Scent and lint strands hanging from the ceiling lights; go out past the curb onto Centre Street, raise your eyes to clear sky, the air bearing wafts of siren and lilac. And just stand there.

Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: Father according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do?

[I put another quarter in the dryer]

The elder rose in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not be totally changed into fire?

Robbie Gamble, Soul-Lit, Summer 2017.