Michael Angel Martín’s “Retreat to Saint Leo Abbey” & Jonathan Blake’s “Prayer” (The Worcester Review)

Retreat to Saint Leo Abbey

by Michael Angel Martín

When a long-loosened windshield
Wiper snaps off the bumperless Mazda
And gets snatched up into a night-storm
Erupting on the drive’s final stretch,
I don’t think I’ll make it. But I do,
Even if hours past compline. Inside
The guest house that squats on a lake
Named for an ancient pontiff, I plop
My duffel bag and greet the watchful
Canvas icons above the flower-print cot.
There’s a potency in the air, and not
Just rust and moss-rot, the effulgence
Of old Florida. But the prayer of those
Here before, fellow weekend believers.
Even the floorboards creak, interceding.

Previously published in The Worcester Review (Vol. 40, Numbers 1 & 2, 2019).

*Writing Prompt: In this time of quarantine, we are all in waiting and hoping for a collective sigh of relief. In the meantime, life continues unabated. How have you marked transitions afresh as a result of the pandemic? What rituals, habits, or routines have sustained you? Write about it.


by Jonathan Blake

How to explain my wonder

The single engine of a small plane

The bright purple finch perched, still,
Keeping vigil as his stone gray mate
Warms the tiny world of her egg

The perfume of lilac in morning
Like a woman whispering in your ear

What it means to hear spring

The still shadow of the small jade
On the white wicker table
Signing the spirit of god

Into the perfect circle of darkness
One wasp moves into cool brick

No sadness in the gardens

The imperfect perfection of what sings
In the rows of furrowed shadows –
The newly tilled earth: line after wandering line

New basil standing up in the sun

The white hair of the ghost
Of my father working the garden

My mother’s strong hands tying the tomatoes

One crow gleams in the dead limbs
Of a tree close to the compost

What is divine and what is
Ordinary; what sings
And what is still

The slow red dance of geraniums
On the sunlit terrace a beautiful mystery

The bronze wings of the butterfly
Coming to rest on the worn
And weathered bannister

The crooked stairs that lead down
And into the garden

Previously published in The Worcester Review (Vol. 40, Numbers 1 & 2, 2019).

* Writing Prompt: Slow the world down. Attune all your senses. Fashion a catalogue of images into the gifts they are. Polish and illumine. Separate them so they shine on their own and as part of a greater whole. Experiment with order, music. Read them aloud. Fashion a few lines that explain their being, binds them. Create a title that does the same.

This issue of The Hard Work of Hope is produced in partnership with The Worcester Review.

Michael Angel Martín

Michael Angel Martín is a poet and book reviewer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and journals. He lives with his family in Miami, Florida.

Jonathan Blake

Jonathan Blake has been following the gospel of his heart for as long as he can remember. Writer, educator, arts activist/organizer, he makes his home in central Massachusetts. Currently he teaches on the English department at Worcester State University, where for the past 12 years he has hosted a round robin open reading series open to students, faculty and staff and the greater Worcester County poetry community called ONE POEM. His poems and essays can be found in an array of journals and anthologies, including the Atlanta Review, Amoskeag, Brilliant Corners, Poetry East and The Worcester Review. On occasion, he has had the privilege of fashioning his public readings in collaboration with some of the fine jazz musicians who also call central Massachusetts home.