2012 Rita Dove Poetry Award - Semi Finalist
At the Grieving Parents Meeting
In the parish hall of Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church,
pictures of murdered children in our hands,
we huddle in a sphere of folding chairs
and a flickering fluorescent light. Some lean
near the coffee and coffee cake that, each week,
has the same floury smell of sympathy
and each week, the same sour taste.
By the tissues, a painted soapstone statuette –
our patron saint. O, the watches and keys
and gloves that appeared at your feet! A ruse
that my mother relied on to make me believe
that our smallest petitions are heard, that events,
with the proper appeals, can be reversed,
that almost anything lost can be retrieved.
As a girl I chanted your name while I followed the trail:
pockets, under the bed, under the sofa cushions,
pockets again. Something's lost and can't be found.
Please, St. Anthony, look around. When it didn’t turn up,
I brought you coiled vines – like the petals I bring
to my daughter’s room as if to stir up stale air –
and the search would resume.
Look at the priestess of talismans I have become:
her saint card from First Communion in my purse;
lodestones for paperweights at work. For good luck,
a horseshoe-shaped necklace under my shirt:
the crescent shape of the sacred moon goddess
in Peru or the bow of the Blessed Mother’s cradling arm,
arch like the threshold of her sacred vulva,
twine like the helix of lovers.
Look at the virtuoso that was finally birthed,
who would use this ring of linked hands
not for fellowship or grace, not to make
my peace on earth, not to lay my gifts
at your feet and give up the search,
but to summon the face she petitioned
and conjure a curse.