The Way to Holy Cross – a poem by Roberto Christiano

The Way to Holy Cross
Leaves are changing
as I take Route Seven 
off the Dulles Greenway.
Hills consider their rise 
into mountains while
cows in the valley rest  
by the shaded streams.
Cars slowly lessen  
along the pike, and I 
decrease my persistent 
lean on the accelerator.
Nearing the abbey,
roads like Retreat Lane
and Good Samaritan Vale
saunter into view
without asking for notice.
After a long bridge
over the smooth-faced
Shenandoah River, 
I turn off the highway,
roll my window down.
The road is dirt now.
The river glints
at my side between the trees.
Leaves of red maple,
elm, and oak
petal my windshield.
The sign marked
Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey
is easy to pass, 
but I manage to catch it  
out of the corner of my eye
and bear right onto the gravel road
of Cool Spring Lane,
where ripened wheat 
is waiting for harvest.   
Silence deepens in the shadows
of afternoon fields.
Beyond the expanse of planted acres,
the Blue Ridge ascends
its way into the orange
of Indian Summer.
Bells toll for midday prayer.
Softly, I shut the engine off.
Walking up to the sanctuary,
the sky unfolds 
like a vast blue possibility.
Monks are gathering in 
without haste or worry.
I dip in the holy water,
take my place,
incline my head.
The brothers chant,
“God, come to my assistance,”
and I reply,
“Lord, make haste to help me.”

Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from The Northern Virginia Review for his story, “The Care of Roses.” He received a Pushcart nomination from Prairie Schooner for his poetry and was anthologized in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. His chapbook, Port of Leaving, is currently available through Finishing Line Press. Other work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Sow’s Ear, New Verse News, and Delmarva.

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