Beneath a Heavenly Blue Mantilla
In the pew closest to the confessional, a mother
rhythmically rocks side to side as she cradles her infant,
the child in her arms seemingly lifeless as a sack of potatoes.
Softly, she lullabies, mumbling some incompressible patois,
the child’s head held close, snuggling up in the crook of her arm
throughout the early 6 o’clock Mass, the woman’s
heavenly blue mantilla shielding her baby’s head & face.
Following the final blessing, our thin, German-speaking nun,
the convent & rectory’s sole cook, shuffles down the side aisle,
her rosary beads & crucifix rattling along in accompanying
cadence with each measured step the nun takes. Seems
sister’s come to see for herself just how Baby might be faring
on this fine May morning the Lord has given in the Virgin’s special month.
At four, I hold tightly to my mother’s hand as we make our way
to dip our fingers in holy water near the vestibule of the church
while I do my four-year-old best version of what a good boy is
expected to do, keeping both eyes fixed dead ahead so as not to see
the fuss Sister’s cooing makes in that very last pew.
Yes, I knew even then those bad boys don’t have the good sense not to stare.
Today, seventy years distant, I pray again for that muddled
woman who only had an old, arthritic nun there to comfort her,
& I pray for that good nun who gently
stroked Baby’s plastic head, practicing so very well
her Master’s command to love everyone, & I pray for that baby-
doll fast asleep now, somewhere, cradled in the crook of Mamma’s
arm. Last of all, here’s another silent prayer for that boy
who was just beginning to unravel this world’s confusions
around what’s Right & what’s Wrong.
More than four hundred of Terry Savoie’s poems have been published in the past four decades, including ones in APR, Ploughshares, ACM, The Sonora Review, North American Review, Commonweal, American Journal of Poetry, and The Iowa Review, as well as recent issues of Cortland Review, America, Chiron Review, and Tar River Poetry, among others.
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Artwork: Mother and Child by Pablo Picasso, c. 1901. Public Domain.