The Black Madonna

Issue TenIssue Ten PoetryPoetry

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by Vasilka Pateras

Monastic caves of Kalishta, 

stone crevasses of solitude 

on bare floors

a monk’s prayer in worldly denial – 


Inside St Holy Virgin 

candles lit, temjan drifts

icon of Madonna

plunged leagues under Lake Ohrid

protection from the looters of war.


She arose from a watery bed

with a charcoal patina, 

sediments of history

plaintive in her call of duty

she waits 


as infertile pilgrims

leave gifts.


Temjan’ is the Macedonian word for ‘frankincense.’