from the Greek meaning “self-emptying”

By Anita Tanner


“If you could turn your heart into a cowstall,

Christ would be born again on earth.”

—Angelius Silestus


Old wood, manure,

and cattle urine

in milky darkness—

only one bare bulb

at the far end of the barn,

each stall cave-dark, heavy brown

where cows droop their heads

into the rough-barked

bottoms of mangers.


I walk to the stalls

out of duty, monotony,

dumb silence inside

heavy shadow.

On a three-legged stool

with a bucket between my knees,

I pause to watch cows

bow to their meal

in the quiet semi-dark.


How slow my heart learns

the cow’s path,

ancient patterns that turn

toward the hollowing,

hallowing of the ordinary,

light in darkness

where the less our thoughts

profess Him, the more

God appears.

—Anita Tanner