Alive with enchanting imagery, Rose Strode’s exquisite Saint Cuthbert Proclaims the First Sanctuary for Birds, 676 A.D. details moments in the life of that saint. Partly hagiography and part treatise on nature, connection, and reliance, Rose’s poem in incredibly bountiful for a spiritual work of two stanzas. Rose told The Dewdrop that this poem asks what the nature of paradise is. She stated, “In ‘Saint Cuthbert Proclaims the First Sanctuary for Birds, 676 A.D.’ the question is both literal and figurative, and arises as the saint contemplates the animals under his protection.”
Saint Cuthbert Proclaims the First Sanctuary for Birds, 676 A.D.
Maybe he recalled the night he stood in the sea to pray. The sun rose
over the bronze-pink ocean, a red host glowing,
and he glowed back with a strange euphoria brought on
by extreme cold. He’d intended to mortify his flesh but found
joy instead. They say a pair of otters played upon the beach, wrestling
and rubbing against each other, and when they saw his feet
they rubbed them too, curious to discover what he might be,
entrusting themselves to him. In the lee of every stone
a crust of snow remained.
The multitudes of nesting eiders learned his gentle presence
kept predators away, so raised their young
along the stony paths where he walked daily, going slowly,
stopping often. He saw ducklings hatch
or fail to hatch, witnessed tenderness between the mated pairs,
the way they protected hatchlings not their own.
They perched beside him on the stone and seemed
content, yet knew when it was time to fly away. Like them,
he knew his time was near. He saw the way snow melts
even in the sheltered places. Maybe he wondered about the nature
Rose Strode is a poet and essayist whose most recent work appears in Buddhist Poetry Review, Sugar House Review, The Florida Review, New Ohio Review, and Kestrel. She is a recipient of the Gulick Fellowship at Valparaiso University, and an editor at Stillhouse Press. When not writing or helping others with their writing, Rose enjoys rehabilitating overgrown gardens, and attempting to learn the mountain dulcimer.