Say it again: prayer.
Hear how the sound
is like a bird opening
its wings and lifting
into the air.
Assurances sent in e-mails,
in phone calls, we’re praying.
Prayer on your neighbor’s front porch,
prayer at the bedside, down on your knees
prayer in the chapel, your family’s
faith reaching all around you.
Hope delivered in all manner
of expressions, even
my sister writes,
I am holding you both
in my heart.
My niece texts
I so, so, so wish I could be there.
Everyone in unison hoping
for you to be free from harm,
for you to manage the course from here.
When the World’s Fair
came to the borough of Queens,
I was ten-years-old
and my parents decided
to take us there on the train.
We never went anywhere-not
a museum or a movie theatre,
or an amusement park.
My mother, although she studied art
was struck dumb by depression,
silent in the front seat of the car.
My father climbed telephone poles
for a living, a simple man,
like St. Joseph the carpenter.
He spent that hard earned money
on a Catholic education for his children.
I remember it now as if it’s a movie—
an aerial shot of a young girl
in a pink shift dress
gliding along on a conveyor belt
passing in front of the Pieta, a famous
statue carved from one block of white marble.
A statue with folds and folds of fabric,
two heads, two bodies in relation—
his knees on her knees, her other hand
held out as if to ask, What do you make
of this? Marble made flesh and into ribs,
Christ’s head thrown back,
the agony of death.
And then it was gone,
I had already passed it.
I wanted to go back,
to be lifted up once again.
Slap in the Face
Daddy, I loved your sweet devotion to me.
At a 2nd grade parent-teacher conference
in my Catholic school you saw a bulletin
board sign: Smile, God Loves You.
You said that to me on countless days
while I sheltered in your arms
sharing your head-of-the-table
In high school I was scornful
of how we lived in such a tight circle—
never going anywhere, needing permission
to sneeze it seemed. I fought with Mother.
I was sullen and bitter, I saw how
nothing ever got brighter.
I was already planning my escape.
She started a harangue for anyone who
would listen, but it ended with a direct
address to you, busy making a sandwich in the kitchen:
Do you hear how she speaks to me?
She would exact her pound of flesh.
I came around the corner and made contact
with your open hand that slapped me fiercely
on my cheek, on my face–
the face of the beloved child that God made smile.
Christine Higgins is the author of the full-length collection, Hallow (Cherry Grove, 2020). Her latest chapbook, Hello Darling, was the second-place winner in the 2019 Poetry Box competition. Her work has appeared in Pequod, America, Windhover, Naugatuck River Review, and PMS (poemmemoirstory) She is the recipient of two Maryland State Arts Council Awards for both poetry and non-fiction. Higgins is a McDowell Colony Fellow and a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. You can visit her website at: www.christinehigginswriter.com.
Photo Credit: “Day 2- Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica” by april, via Flickr.com.