(Laura Allen/Unsplash)

You enter through the door of roses
and trefoil, held in your mother’s hands
that seem as holy as the Madonna’s
hands; the alcove Madonna who never sighs
in the hairline cracks of her imperfect wood, watching
you even as the forced grotesque limestone eye
of the gargoyle watches you; and the priest
who has known the saved and the drowned
between front and fist, grasps the span
and lunge and cry of you—
yet even as you are newly born you are dying,
and the gatekeeper, gravedigger, and mourner
will choreograph your end in this same place—
can you see, outside the church window,
the small corner of opened earth,
where land mixes with violets and old bones? 

Published in the April 2023 issue: View Contents

Valerie Wohlfeld’s most recent book of poetry is Woman with Wing Removed (Truman State University Press). Her first collection, Thinking the World Visible, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Her poems have been nominated six times for a Pushcart Prize.

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