I was listening to Gregorian chants
in a speeding car
on a highway in France.
The trees rushed past. Monks’ voices
sang praises to an unseen god
(at dawn in a chapel trembling with cold).
Domine, exaudi orationem meum,
male voices pleaded calmly
as if salvation were just growing in the garden.
Where was I going? Where was the sun hiding?
My life lay tattered
on both sides of the road, brittle as a paper map.
With the sweet monks
I made my way toward the clouds, deep blue,
toward the future, the abyss,
gulping hard tears of hail.
Far from dawn. Far from home.
In place of walls — sheet metal.
Instead of a vigil — a flight.
Travel instead of remembrance.
A quick poem instead of a hymn.
A small, tired star raced
and the highway’s asphalt shone,
showing where the earth was,
where the horizon’s razor lay in wait,
and the black spider of evening
and night, widow of so many dreams.
(translated by Clare Cavanagh)
from Without End: New and Selected Poems (2002)