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Valle de Viñales, Cuba, 2002

In this valley where limestone hills jut out
like hairy moles over furrows of tobacco,
a rock-face Christ sprawls on a skew cross,
as if a child had taken loose chert to etch
his fanged mouth, stick legs, twigged fingers.

I touch gouged eyes that weep candle wax,
caress his ocher heart, pray to have a child—
five years of dud pills, junk shots, toxic teas,
specialists who insist, your wife’s plumbing works,
her hours clocked to Clomid, Cetrotide, hCG,
fridge a mosaic of Rx’s, labs, medals, holy cards.

I scratch the ground for a sign: a root gnarled
like a crucifix, a seashell Mary, fig leaf’s scapular,
but only dig up a few termites dried to husk.

By year’s end we adopt a Panamanian girl,
certain that Ivis would not conceive. Around
March she gets fits of heartburn, thinks it’s
acid reflux, then faints, vomits one morning.
Doctor orders a blood test. Days later Ivis calls
me at work with the good news, I in a daze,
her mother in Miami sure that her long-distance
novenas had worked, if late. God’s miracle?
Or was it vagrant chance that made the play?
Either way, faith is deep water that wears away
the rocks of reason, washes out silt of creed,
unstable, profligate, resistant to doubt’s gravity.

The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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