Anne Marie Macari

Little Church

On Good Friday you call from across country
to describe crosses pushed
in wheelbarrows, penitents with mouths full of rocks.
Don’t pray for me, is all I can think, my old faith
crawling sideways over
the dry earth, changing shapes, refusing the vinegar,
the sad sponge. I’m trying not
to plan ahead for love’s daily resurrections—love born, slain,
reborn in the rumpled bed. When are you coming home?
You can’t know how a woman wants, can’t know
how forgiving her breasts
feel when finally found under their wrappings
as if they’d been waiting to be touched but didn’t know it,
or how the muscular hand
of the vagina keeps calling, enter, enter, no matter
how long it takes you
to hear, how it then
lets go, cupping
the spittle and milk. Some days my belief is
a pale thing, like when
the blue afterbirth of love hangs
so heavy, the mouth of love
limp and open with weariness. The flesh knows
this one thing, it practices
for its own demise as when
giving birth, in and out of pain, a voice said, This
is what it’s like to die
As for the scolding bells,
I try not to listen, I’d rather feel my breath
rising toward you, so distant
from me, seeking the stray hairs at the nape
of your neck.
What horror would it take for me to go back
to the old words, to kneel again—
instead I lean into my pillow, my legs
slightly open, waiting
for when we meet skin to skin, having
to decide who I am
now that my gods have fallen away. Sometimes
only touch can help me
when I’m released with a cry
and returned to my loneliness. See how
the bed is a little church where
we have given up and taken back, spoken
in tongues, worshipped
and worshipped, then lapsed each night,
into oblivion.

Ann Marie Macari
Little Church is reprinted from Gloryland (Alice James Books, 2005).