Heavy wooden shutters stand open.
Warm air and July sun stream into the room
of the convent, my refuge for three weeks.
At the window I inhale the unfamiliar
countryside of Umbria: the scent of ripe fruit and earth
the row after row of olive trees rooted in dry and stony soil.
How I welcome the strangeness --
to be unknown
unavailable for condolence.
On one tier an old woman wearing a long black robe appears.
Like one of the hags of fate. As ancient as this sanctuary.
She moves slowly, dragging a thick black hose
up the side of a hill and around the demented beauty of each tree--
bent and gnarled as her own body bent by pain or prayer.
A presence about her touches me in a way I need it to.
She turns slowly and looks up at my window.
I raise my hand.
She lifts the hose.
Acknowledging loss so new
I barely know its name.