“I rise with the morning bell,” said Sister Agnes,” I hear it now in my ears. It rings in the ears and heart. The window shows dawn just about to come over the cloister wall like a mischievous child about to play forbidden games. I sing in choir with my voice absorbed by the voices of others and the walls of the church. I walk the cell like one waiting to die; listen to the birdsong outside like one wanting new life or life renewed. Sister Blaise is in the cloister garth walking with the birds, the morning chill resting on her black serge shoulder. I watch her walk; her feet tread like one on eggshells. Her hands hidden beneath her blackbird breast, her head bowed like one at prayer. She has birds at her feet, St Francis like. I shall leave her, kneel in prayer, and climb the stairway to contemplation. My father’s tears settle on my sight; his voice broken; his eyes looking out at the garden where once we walked. He would have had me stay at home; dry old-maid fashion at his beck and call day and night as my mother did until cancer dragged her weeping to the far beyond. I shut my lids against the dawn; press my lids like one seeking blindness to the harsh day’s light. My brother, George, sits in some Paris café talking of art and painting his oil-drench canvases in his back street studio. Father talks of him as one who is lost. Both of us are lost to him, each in their own way. George cares not; his art and women are his all. Thoughts push their way through the curtains of my prayer; they are rude and unclean; they are ill bred like the children my mother despised. I rise from prayer like one defeated. The light from the dawn blesses me with warmth; my flesh touched like one in love. I look at Sister Blaise and her birds; her hands are open like one crucified. Her rosary hangs from her belt; a thousand prayers cling to each bead. Last night I saw her kiss the feet of the stone Virgin; lay her hand on the Saviour’s head. Holiness nests in her heart like a white bird in a dark bush; she shall hold me in my dim hours. The bell rings once more; its echo vibrates my ears and heart. I was happy when I entered your house; your handmaiden shall attend your needs. Prayers escape me; liturgies are my food and drink; my beads shall be my stones of pain. My aches shall be the nails to crucify me in my dark hours; my Christ bleeds in my monthly death. All shall be forgiven. The stones shall break my bones; the words pierce my fleshy heart. I shall go now; descend the stairs for dawn time prayer. Night flees me like one unfaithful to a lover’s kiss. I come. My bridegroom.”



Horsham, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

A nun’s story.

Artwork Comments

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