Xochiquetzal Candelaria

Chimayo, New Mexico

This is happening in the backroom

of the unpainted adobe church, adorned

with wooden double doors

visible behind us  in the photograph.


I’m the one in braids shielding

my eyes while my sister raises

three fingers. A clear day

the reason we get to play outside,


why there exists another photograph

of my sister with a sprig of rosemary

in her mouth gazing up as I climb

Mary to deliver a crown of poppies.


Later, I take a picture of a terracotta tile,

one edge imprinted with a dog’s paw,

a primitive photograph itself.

I contemplate getting a shot of our father


while he rests his hands on a polished pew,

but turn instead toward a painting where Mary

Magdalene kneels in a red dress,


hair dripping, Jesus’ hand close enough to feel

heat from her lips. Two strips of purple fabric

cloak the painting like a veil


as if their bodies formed a face, but none of this


will be visible when the film

is developed. Just a gilded frame

surrounding a darkness,

limitless and without reason.


Like the wood and steel crutches hanging

from rusted nails in this backroom, names

etched along the edges, crutches in every corner

and hanging from the ceiling.


Above the door, one pair intersects

to form a cross, held together

by the belt of a hospital robe.

The pictures of us appear here


years later, taped to this back wall with

hundreds of others facing our father

who kneels on an earthen floor by a hole growing

deeper as word of the healing dirt spreads.



“Chimayo, New Mexico” first appeared in Seneca Review, Vol. XXXVII, No. 1.