We are not in the right place and we feel it
But we have legs and time and no choices and the day is fine
So we walk,
Following pilgrims’ paths,
Trying to forget that whatever we walk through day
We will have to walk in darkness.

Green fields and dirt paths yield to gravel, then paved roads quicken our pace
And the land has opened and we find the city we have come to see
Set aflame by the sun.
We descend stone paths and stone stairs,
We enter tunnels,
We brush past walls that speak:
Merci, Marie,
Holy Virgin,
15 years of grace.

Merci, Marie,
Merci, Marie,
She has saved my child.

I have stepped into
A church sewn into rock,
The warmth of color and of heat like a womb,
The darkness like the tomb of a king
Flush as it is with red and gold and candlelight glinting on glass,
A place out of time, moments pressed into liminal space.

A man of indecipherable age steps back and forth,
Heavy garments swinging through space,
Tongue wrapped around Latin, then around wafer and wine, then around hollow silence,
Arms stretched to reach beyond the world.
Above us all, the black Madonna, sitting buoyantly,
Supports with one knee the fragile weight of a god.

I want to stay, I want to eat and to drink, but I find the door and slide back into the cold.
The bells beat their notes into the gathering dark.

She is
Wood and silver,
Vessel of the divine
And of acceptance
And of whatever it is we bring for her to hold.
       Merci, Marie.
Through ash and oxidation she has taken the color
She should have taken from the beginning:
Color of beauty and fullness and difficulty and knowing,
Night sky that hides the rest of the universe,
Desert skin that knows how to carry both miracle and grief.

This night we will shiver in the empty train station,
Waiting, waiting,
We will eat cheese sandwiches and drink gin in the wallpapered apartment,
We will shout our conversations
In a bar where the only space between us is too much sound,
And after,
When I dream, I’ll dream of cold smiles,
Walnuts and sugar and melted cream,
Fissures in the earth and cities suspended in the void and
       Merci, Marie,
Dark country roads with cars that won’t

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