BLESSING OF THE BLACK VIRGIN
I am ready to park my useless womb
in a pew in the Church of Wellbeing. Swaying,
still drunk from lunch and pasta-queasy, I sit
with blanked vision in marble dark,
blinded by San Marco's televised Mother's Day Mass.
Snapped-out with shots of tots on Venice's stone lions,
depleted from cramps, I sink into a Black Madonna's gaze.
My husband's thigh presses on mine. Thoughts
leach together: jet lag and luck's pull-dates,
a void where the swelling should be.
The Madonna's eyes poke and prod,
grazing down from her gold foil heaven,
So you want to be a mother?
Her halo pricks tears from my pinched lids
and she holds out an emerald studded box
whose crowned lid does not exactly fit.
Arms rise up beyond the frame,
pulling us all down. Her words rumble
below the marble. I bring them all
into being. Just climb down into my dark boat.
The floor spins, mosaics arrowing out
and I toss our canceled children
into an unknown virgin's lap.
Outside in sun, we wait beside the bone-brightness
for a vaporetto. How did I arrive here?
I was brought up believing everything was mine
to make - even, certainly, children.
Restless as water, I catch a last murmur
from inside as The Lady of Last
Chances throws a boon: In heat shimmer
above the lagoon, her grant rises:
Be a mother, then -- be singed and blackened
tending the flame of a child in every ear and eye.
SINGING IN THE PANDALESHWAR CAVES
At noon in a dim chamber fifty feet under
Pune's dusty roar, my voice
threaded through a hundred voices
and slipped out a hole in the dark.
It became an eye watching
the cave's ear swallow taxi bleat,
creak of neem tree and truck honk.
The cave's black cup caught the notes
and pushed them on beyond a precipice
marked, "Beware of God."
Since then, my throat has kept
a dark space.
I am careful of hosannas vaulting
to contralto heaven, of earthquake bass
and monkey clarinets in priestly procession.
I press back from the temples of chattering
prayer wheels, and into silence -
the inner bell of nothing thinner
than a muezzin's flapping aria.
Sound of no sound sinking
deeper than a stone's freefall in a well.
The sound that, when it hits
water, is a human slap,
a divine echo.