Augustine sees Ambrose reading silently
My tongue was filled with questions I knew he could answer:
his door was wide and he was alone –
on the table a book and a half-eaten hunk of bread.
The light from the high window bent over him like grace.
His mouth, soft and full, did not open
and the fine hair on his upper lip was still.
I saw his finger trace each line,
the only sound a whisper of skin on vellum
where a scribe had scratched out an error.
He was reading in the Book of the Lord.
I was dumb with silence and returned to my house.
I heard children’s voices playing in a garden
as I turned the first page.
I put a grape in my mouth to stop my eager tongue.
I did not notice the slave
when he came to tend the lamps
or taste the wine he brought me.
As I closed the book the sun was rising over the city.
Now I understand
reading is an act of faith – tolle, lege.
Back to poems