Seventeen, seven months, scared to death,
I hunched in the second pew,
In front of the Blessed Virgin,
Arms wrapped around my swollen stomach.
The priest touched my shoulder;
I shivered; cleared my throat.
"I came to pray. To Mary.
Her son is king; she did everything right.
She knew just what to do, and I know nothing."
I wanted to priest to say something,
Help me, but all he did was stare at me,
A dirty girl who'd found religion too late.
"Father, I'm so scared!"
The words clattered at the ceiling,
Rent holy silence, stirred the priest,
Who looked up at Mary, saying,
"Don't you think she was scared, too?
A virgin heard the voice of God.
How could she know what would happen?"
I looked at Mary, saw everything I wanted to be—
Beautiful, virgin, perfect.
The priest took my hand. "Mary—
She didn't know anything either.
She was scared; she cried.
I'm sure she had doubts, just like you."
I looked up, into her beatific smile, her cloudless eyes.
Motherhood still seemed
Our only similarity. In my head,
The priest's absolvement echoed. I closed my eyes,
Prayed my hardest for it to be true.
Doves skim the air around his head—
feathers collect specks of stardust,
twine lightly with stray rabbit whiskers
thin as nylon fishing line that threads
up his sleeve and back down through
the hole in the ace that he
plucks from nothing but the slim-tipped
wands of his fingers, which tap secrets
of black velvet, red brocade, silver lining.