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She was beautiful on a hilltop
above the Red Lake River where clouds
dashed sunlight and the scent
of cherry and lilac drifted in, drifted out,
perfumes like a halo, or heaven.
Breezes textured the air and that word, breeze,
was palpable or like palpability—
you could cup your hands and take it.
I watched a fisherman below me
casting into the brown water,
and I imagined his fish wishes
or that he may have been trying
to get into the mind beneath the surface.
Who knows how to pray? Solicitous,
I moved to the edge of the sheltering hedge
made for Mary and squinted into the sun,
and the words of her prayer came as easily
to me as my own name, as the memory
of my grandmother in St. John’s and the rosary,
that conduit to the actual way of praying,
speaking directly as though they were friends,
God, Mary, and Jesus, even the Holy Spirit,
(abstract but somehow still close)
but it was Mary I always came back to,
Mary who seemed most real, Mary I could ask
for favors, and thank. I knew thanking
was important, my grandmother
with her wild flowers, arranging them into jars,
the shrines I knew before I knew the words,
shrine, blessed, fruit of thy womb Jesus.
From Mother Mary Comes to Me: A Popculture Poetry Anthology (Madville, 2020). Poem included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.
Jane Varley’s books include a memoir Flood Stage and Rising. She is a professor at Muskingum University in Ohio.