What became of the nice pagan girl
I married? you complained
one morning after I’d found my way
to the church down the street
and kept walking back every Sabbath.

Over dinner you’d quiz me
on the sermon, argue with the absent preacher,
and me if I defended his BS.
Maybe you resented any other guy—
him or Christ—having any say in my life.

Still, each Christmas you’d present me with a cross—
one Celtic, one amethyst and gold, one silver filigree—
to kiss the hollow at the base of my throat,
even as you reiterated your position:
You were good with God, no question.
It was the Jesus piece you couldn’t swallow.

When I left that church, you seemed sad,
as though our spirited debates had been
a welcome catechism, as though I’d worn
and carried with me the facet of you
that craved a faith that could be sung
in hymns of childhood without choking.

When cancer rose up the chain
of your spine, you shocked me,
suggesting we find a spiritual structure
for the time ahead—time we believed
might yet be months or years.
How about a visit, I suggested, from the local priest
who’d had dinners delivered to our door?

When you agreed, I should have figured
you were up to something—something
I wasn’t onto until long after
her visits and your passing,
when I was kneeling in her congregation,
adorned by your last cross—the one
studded in amber—leaning into
the sly warmth of your intention.

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

Access one piece of artwork every month for free! To experience the full archive, log in or subscribe.

Related Poetry

five doves in flight against a pale eggshell sky.

Mourning Doves


Elisabeth Murawski

Lord of the hopeless also dear


Shane McCrae



Amy McCann

Image of a house in the dead of night. The house sits in the lower left half of the frame and looks like a cut-out from black paper, lit up only by purple light coming from the windows and doors. To the left is an enormous tree shrouded in shadows. A low cloud hangs near the right side sky of the frame. Above the house is a vast sweep of stars on the gray sky.



Adélia Prado

Pin It on Pinterest