After Visiting the Lourdes of Lebanon – CW Emerson

St. Charbel, born Youssef Makhlouf in 1828, lived as a hermit
in the Maronite Order in northern Lebanon. The oil that leaks

from his burial site is said to possess miraculous healing
powers.

I went, as you asked,
               to Saint Charbel’s tomb,
traveled through the desert
to the city of Byblos,
and flew back home
with a vial in my hands.
I poured the precious oil
over your limbs, and prayed
it would seep into brittle bone
and slow the cells growing there

                            by infinite degree,
                                                        to less than the velocity
                                         of breath.

*

I fluctuate
between faith and doubt,
no right or wrong
to this kind of thing.
You tell me to pray,
              and reluctantly, I do.
My holy grammar lifts up
to where lace of cloud
meets mountain face

              then higher still:
                                                by the grace of the saints,
                        return him to me.

*

There’s no need to outlive me
               or any of the others.
Just make your way down
to the ground floor
and out to your old Renault.
I’ve primed the engine for you,
turned it over, warmed the seat.
Roll down the window
and listen to its music
                as it tick-tick-ticks
down street after street

                                            into next year,
                                                                       and the next,
                                                          and the next.

ChrisEmersonC.W. (Chris) Emerson lives and works in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California as a clinical psychologist and supervisor, teacher, and poet. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including Assisi, Atlanta Review, Comstock Review, G.W. Review, Harpur Palate, Mantis, Poetry East, Quiddity, Saint Ann’s Review, The Cape Rock, The MacGuffin, The Pedestal, and others. Emerson is a 2016 Knightville Poetry Contest Semi-Finalist (judged by Stephen Dunn), and received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest. Emerson studies with acclaimed poet and teacher Cecilia Woloch.