Amy Cannon

Rule of St. Benedict 

friend       what have you come for?

are you hastening home?       then keep this little rule


day by day       remind yourself       that you are going to die

abandon your will       lay down what you have in hand       leave it unfinished


be silent       and enclose yourself        

embrace suffering       content yourself with lowliness


prayers should be short and pure       make haste to help

eradicate the ego       become a vessel of perception


do not retain anything as your own

be ready to rise       without delay


set aside what you have       with utmost speed

nothing is to be preferred


from this day       you are no longer free

even your body is not your own


this is the law under which you serve

if you can keep it       come in





what is there to say about the desert fathers?


they fled temptation to the wilderness       hid themselves in clefts and caves

       and temptation found them there       demons in the form of seducers       quarrels

provoked by pride and boredom       the desire to curse god

       return to city living           


they lived on pillars to escape the demands of many       who promptly built pulleys

       to haul their questions up       to beg for blessing

they wove baskets of reeds to buy their bread       fought devils with the psalms

       had three hair shirts       they changed occasionally


take away temptation       every itch       and no one will be saved

       however holy





Julian Speaks


since allthing hath the love of god

come to him pleynly and homely

god of thye goodnesse       give me thyselfe

thou art enow to me 


these words were seyd full tenderly

full lovesome to the soule

to litil and smale       low and simple

and al thing shall be wele

and all manner thing shal be wele





lessons from the desert


if a passionate thought enters my heart       how should I reject it?

by contradiction?       rebuke?       by hastening toward god?


brother       the passions are afflictions       demons to be cast out

silence is good in every case       what more do you want?


when a thought enters       cut it short immediately

unending vigilance is required


remember you are earth       and shall return to it

empty as the dead       reckon yourself as nothing


taking not too little nor too much       keep to the simple way

giving up self-trust       and self-deceit


die to everyone       a true exile

carefree of all       you will find god


remain modest       do not believe

you have done any good


in unceasing prayer       sit and learn to weep

these things       will yield a hundredfold




instructions for change  


       go away from here       flee

your white-washed cell       and your work

       do not close the door       but go       leaving it open


if you are thirsty       drink from the sea

       it will prove sweet       and do not fear

being thirsty later on       god is here

       god is everywhere


how should one pray?

       the old man said       there is no need

to make long discourses       it is enough       to stretch out your hands

       and say       have mercy       and if the conflict grows       say help


an anchorite able to banish demons asked them       what is it that makes you go?

       I say my little office

is it fasting?       they said we do not eat or drink

       I pray and meditate

vigils?       they said we do not sleep

       I live in peace

separation from the world?       we live in deserts

       what else can I do?

what sends you away?       nothing can overcome us they said       only humility

       the old man stood up       and stretched his hands toward heaven 

       his fingers became       like ten lamps of fire       he said

               why not be utterly changed into fire?



Amy Katherine Cannon is a writer and writing teacher living in Los Angeles. She received her MFA from UC Irvine, where she was the recipient of the Gerard Creative Writing Endowment. She is the author of the mini-chapbook ‘to make a desert’ (Platypus Press, 2016). Her work can be found in BOAAT, BODY, Juked, and LIT, among other places. She is Managing Editor of Palaver Arts Magazine, a student publication.

Artwork: Christian WorthingtonSt. Jerome in the Desert, 2016, ink on copper, 8″x10″.

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