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Terry Collett Oct 2019
l'uomo non può salvarsi
the Italian monk said
-man cannot
save himself-
we were in
the monastery garden
digging potatoes
for midday lunch,

seul Dieu peut
nous sauver
Dom Blaise uttered
-only God can save us-
and I listened to him
taking in his greying
tonsure and beard,

I opened the book
heavy and aged
smelling of time
and Christ on His cross
-Christi in crucem eius-
fingered and page worn
worn by fingers and eyes,

absque omni
condicione electionis
Calvin said
-unconditional election-
He does not elect us
because of our merits
but by His sovereign choice,

but Dom Joseph said
that is not Church teaching
we are saved by our freedom
to choose and accept
God's grace
and we sat by
the monastery beach
face to face.
Terry Collett Aug 2019
His head
no longer tonsured
but cropped close
like a zec
in a Stalinist prison,
he passed me in the cloister
in his loose fitting robes,
head down,
deep in thought
or prayer.

Another monk
who walked with a limp,
weeded the beds
by the cloister wall,
a black patch
over one eye
like a pirate
from Treasure Island
which I read as a boy.

I swept the refectory
in the mid morning work,
watching the sunlight
make patterns
on the wooden floor,
colours from
the coloured-glass windows.
The tall lean monk
planed the wood smooth
for the cross,
to mark the place
of the monk
who died in the week,
peaceful in his bed.

Who of these is holy,
I wouldn't know,
none looks into
their inner self or soul
and pleads as such
to themselves or others
if they dare;
holiness or saint-hood
is for God to declare.
Terry Collett Sep 2018
Confiteor Deo omnipotenti.
The old monk black robed
moved side to side down

the cloister a wrecked ship
in the high seas of his age
as the bell tolled for Lauds.

Et vobis fratres and come
she said bring me your soft
spoils bring me to my highest

heaven so I did. Without free
will there can be no sin or
virtue without free will you

are free of all responsibilities
Dom Thomas said to us. Quia
peccavi nimis the young monk

confessed. Belltower seen
above trees from the roadside
and heard further afield than that.

George and I pulling the bells
as we shown the day before.
Cogitatione verbo et opere

et omissione I said in my inner
darkness. Dom Charles twisted
the apple just so and said that

is how it is done.Mea culpa mea
culpa mea maxima culpa having
free will is to be culpable from the  

beginning and having free will is
necessary factor for any sinning.
Terry Collett Sep 2018
The bell rang for Matins.
The tall thin monk seemed
to glide past me to the church.

The cloister had captured and
held the cold morning. I gazed
into the cloister garth on my

right and saw the flower beds
spread like a carpet. I entered
the church and dipped my finger

in the stoup and made a sign
of the cross and took my place
in the choir stalls. Opposite

monks had gathered in the
5.30am dawn and stood or sat
turning pages of their books

of prayer. Beside and behind
other monks gathered about
me likewise ******* books

for Matins. The abbot knocked
on wood and the chanting
began. The morning sun shone

through high windows and laid
a splash of light on the flagstone
floor. I followed and chanted the

Latin words to mix and blend
with the others. I watched the
sunlight flicker on the floor. I

smelt the incense from Mass
the day before and each day
would come and go and be the

same like an echo down the wind.
I wondered would I stand with
saints or those who sinned.
Terry Collett Aug 2018
The taxi dropped me off
at the end of the drive.

I wanted to walk up
the avenue of trees
to the monastery
and leave the outer world
by a slow walk.

It was September
and the August
warmth remained
and birds flew overhead.

Half way up the drive,
I saw three black robed monks
walking towards me.

I knew them all
from my previous visits.

This time it was to stay
and take my place
amidst them all.

Words of welcome
and enquiries of my health
and state of mind
and humour to relax me
as we entered
the porter's lodge
of the abbey.

A sense
of nervousness
entered me.

The world and its works
left behind and the inner world
of this desert would
shape me and prepare me.

After the introduction
and cheer, a brother took me
to my room or cell
as it was called
and watched and talked
as I unpacked my things.

He studied the books
I unpacked: Story of a Soul,
Confessions of St Augustine,
one Bible and poems of Hopkins.

He left me and said
he would return later for me
for the Office of None;
two others came
so I wasn't alone.
Terry Collett Jul 2018
The monk stands
in the shadow
of the cloisters,
said Benedict,
his arms folded
beneath his black habit,
his features unsmiling,
his stare out at the garth
and the clock tower
over the way.

I watch him,
feeling the sun's warmth
where the shadows aren't;
the flowers in the flower beds
are in full bloom,
the afternoon air
throws birds into the sky
to set free and fly.

Other monks
gather in the garth
after the office of None;
Patrick wheels out the trolley
with tea, coffee and cake;
we stand and talk
in the brief recreational break;
white clouds drift by,
birds take wing above
in the afternoon sky.

One talks to me of his book
on the abbey, the history
from its origins in France
until exiled here.

There is the bell
for the end of the break
and on we go
to our occupations
in our rooms or church;
I attend the Latin class
with George and Gareth,
our novice master aids us
in our studies, we learn
the holy sounds
of the Latin phrase and chants.

I love the office of Compline:
the chanting in the half-dark,
the evening light
through high windows,
the utter separation
from the outer world
and our communion with God
in prayer and chant and song,
and our hymn to Sancta Maria,
and the final bell,
and the prayers on wing and air,
and I stand momentarily
silent there.
Terry Collett Apr 2018
He stood on the shore
gazing across the Solent.

He was smoking
thinking of her
and what she was doing
and what she made
of the turn of events.

He'd left her the day before
and had come to the abbey.

She had no idea
where he was
and that was how
he wanted it.

A car ferry
passed his sight
with holiday-makers
filled with joy
and excitement.

The abbey
was his sanctuary
and he had told
one of the monks
the evening before
of his exile.

Across the Solent
yachts were in sail
their whiteness in contrast
to the blue and green
of the sea.

After the office of Sext
and lunch
he would go
to the public house
over the side and wall.

He went yesterday
and played bar billiards
on his own.

But what after this?
And the day after?

This was the abbey's
private beach
and behind the woods
leading up to the church.

He flicked the cigarette stub
out to sea and stood
watching gulls in flight.

He lit another cigarette.

He would
he mused
sleep alone
again tonight.
Terry Collett Apr 2018
They were not expecting him.
He rang to ask for a room
for a few days.

Then he rang his mother
to say he had arrived ok
and would be staying
at the abbey.

He went by taxi
as it was quicker than the bus
and he just couldn't cope
with the crowds
in his state of mind.

He arrived about twelve.
A monk showed him the room
and he unpacked
what little he had managed
to bring with him.

He sat in a chair
by the window
and looked at the roof
of the church.

What now?
He mused.

He wondered what she
would be thinking.

She'd be wondering
where he was
and why he'd not returned
from the town
as he said he would.

Would it dawn on her
that he'd left her?

Other thoughts would go
through her mind.

Had he had an accident?
But it would gradually
dawn on her that he'd left.

He had an hour to ****
before lunch.

He left the room
and went for a walk
in the abbey grounds
down to the sea shore
through the woods.

Standing there
he lit up a cigarette
and watched the sea.

He thought to himself
what will become of me?
Terry Collett Mar 2018
He pushed an old wooden
wheelbarrow, the monk who
passed me by on the path

to the woods. On the way,
I stopped at the monk's
cemetery on the right. Huge

stone tombstones marked
out in Latin who they had
been in the monastic life

and when they died. I had
known none of them, but
God did in His timeless zone.

There was a feeling of peace
there; no rush or clamour
for recognition or status

other than that beyond the
world to give. I stood in silence
reading the names. Birds

sang or called to each other
from nearby trees. Sunlight
shone down like a blessed kiss.

I moved on towards the wood
and passed on through to
the private beach and stood

and stared at the sea. I pushed
away thoughts of Sophia lying
on Mr H's bed trying to ******,

her eyes blue, her blouse loose.
Terry Collett Mar 2018
The bell tolled.

The priest/ monk
entered from the right.

He knelt
and kissed the altar.

I sat on the other side
of the grille, black painted,
decorated
with twists and turns.

He bowed to us,
then turned away
to face the altar.

He began
the Latin Mass.

All knelt as he began.

One muttered to my right
a secret prayer;
to my left
one fingered
a wooden rosary,
mouthing Aves
and Glory bes.

He Latinized
his back to us.

I mused on Sophia
trying to ****** me
on the dead man's bed.

Her Polish/ English language
softly spoken
in my ear.

He read the Epistle
of St James.

The rosary pusher
paused her *******.

The prayer mutterer
silenced her words.

Sophia, I mused,
lay out on the bed,
hands behind her head,
legs spread wide.

The priest/monk
read the Gospel
of St Mark.

I closed my eyes.

I pictured the Crucified
in my dark.
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