The Adirondack Review
The Amazing Spiral Staircase of the Loreto Chapel,
Sante Fe New Mexico


When the architect neglected to mark in
a way to the second floor,
the choir loft was left to hover
like a soul in heaven, cut off, longing
for its mortal body. The sisters
prayed a novena to saint
Joseph, and, on the ninth and final day
a stranger appeared on a donkey
sized things up and said
he thought he could help them
wanting only to remain anonymous.

Each piece of wood was
drenched with hot water and
form-fit, bent into place,
fastened together with hardwood pegs
(he never used a nail). Tourists
still admire the tight
sprung coil, the spiraling narrow
steps, at the same time snake
and ladder, a dragon, a dollar-sign,
the curved bronze serpent on
Moses’ staff…

It was probably not saint Joseph,
perhaps some gifted Mexican ex-
convict, a one-time vigilante doing
penance for his crimes, constructing,
like a second Dante, a way
for the rest of us to climb,
even now, in the body, past
the cracked paint and water stains
to bathe in the brilliant
every-colored light
streaming through the bright rose-window.







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JOHN SLATER is a Cistercian monk in upstate New York, where, among other things, he cares for the sick and gardens. His poems have appeared in various journals in the U.S. and Canada, most recently Queen's Quarterly and Brink Magazine; his poem "Lost and Found" won the 2007 Foley Poetry Award in America Magazine. Other work is forthcoming in Drunken Boat and Crab Orchard Review. Currently he is preparing for publication a first collection of his own work as well as a book of translations from the Persian of Hafiz of Shiraz (co-translated with Jeffrey Einboden).
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poemsThe St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems
The St. Lawrence Book Award for a first collection of short stories or poems