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.