Winner of the 2005 Annie Finch Prize
On Recognizing Saints
As if to find new icons for her life
or as if - piece by piece - to dismantle mine
she scans our purchases too consciously.
Flips through a magazine I'm embarrassed
to be buying. Studies its regimen
for shapely thighs, asks me - because she's heard -
if drinking wine is good for nursing.
The shift from idle chitchat to appeal.
Camille, her nametag says. Camille
of olive skin and violet nails
with long metallic tips, who
flashes her lover's sucking marks
like her stigmata. Camille who isn't
showing yet - but like Crivelli's virgin
martyr Catherine, peers sidelong at me
and leans decoratively against her register
as Catherine did against her studded wheel.
So clearly Catherine that I want
to look away - or kneel.
And yet, Crivelli would have
framed her differently: a martyr
tucked away with other martyrs
in a predella of muted colors, quiet
suffering. None of this heart-to-heart -
this girlfriend talk that brings to mind
a string of small petitions
and makes me say my part.