Jennifer is a professorof English at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee . Her poem “Forty Trochees” was selected by Rachel Hadas for the Frost Farm Prize in Metrical Poetry in 2020. She is the author of two chapbooks, both from Finishing Line Press: Let Me Let Go (2020) and Dubious Breath (2022). Her website is jenniferdavismichael.com.
Sanctuary is a snapshot of eternal Ireland.
St. John’s Priory, Trim, County Meath
We scramble over the stile, startling sheep,
to enter the priory ruins, black with rain
against a stone-gray sky. Our honeymoon’s
eccentric–slogging through damp fields,
careening round blind curves on one-lane roads
–but we find blessing in these ancient sites,
where tombs and crosses teach us what we are.
Ahead, we find a crumbling tower that once
kept watch for Vikings on the Newtown bridge.
But we’re the only visitors today,
and there’s no sign of welcome or defense.
Here, once, the poor and sick found sanctuary,
when hospital and hospitality
shared sacred roots.
Amid these ruminations,
walking among the roofless, battered walls,
we hear a muffled cooing. Pigeons? Doves?
No, a young couple sheltered in an archway,
sharing a flask between whispers and kisses.
Mindful of our own warm (though rented) bed,
we back away to photograph the ruins,
leaving the living out of our report,
as though we’d stumbled on a robin’s nest
and tiptoed off before the bird’s return.
We take hands, kiss, and leave them to their peace,
picking our way among the sheep-grazed graves.