The Flesh is Weak
(for Fray Tomás of Guadalupe)


The orange, perfectly gilded with moonlight
in the shadowy cloister garden, felt cool
as I fondled it beneath the gaze
of Fray Tomás. “Somos dos Tomases,
somos dos solteros, somos solos
en el mundo, por amor de Dios,” he
had said to me over drinks in the monastery
patio at Spanish twilight, late, after supper.
I fidgeted over my response, “Solo
en amor de Dios soy yo,” and I scraped back
my wooden chair on those cooling stones
as if to get up and go, when he invited me
to see the gardens. I, in turn, invited my
sister and her husband and daughter to join us.
We all went, through the wooden gate
that he unlocked, to see the marvel
of that orange tree that he then bid me touch,
and I did, the cool brightness
of Blood Oranges hanging from limbs—
almost was too much for me. And then,
as quickly as we had entered, he
ushered us out through the dark, short
tunnel back to’rd that gate to the world
of the public, away from what we
weren’t officially allowed to see.
My sister ducked through with her family,
and then he kissed me. This man
who said he had been placed in the care
of his brother monks when he was an early teen
by his mother who wanted to save him
from the civil war’s atrocities, “solo
en el mundo, por amor de Dios,”
put his hands on my face and kissed me.

I saw him at mass the next morning,
and he smiled down at his sandals
as I passed and entered the sanctuary.

TRANSLATIONS: “Somos dos Tomases,
somos dos solteros, somos solos en el mundo, por amor de Dios,”
= We are two Thomases, we are two bachelors, we are alone in the world, for the love of God.

“Solo
en amor de Dios soy yo,”
= Alone in love of God am I

“solo en el mundo, por amor de Dios”
= alone in the world, for the love of God

Tom Marshall