Steven Duncan

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Ржавчина и Слезы (Rust and Tears)

Based on actual events in western Ukraine, 1930

First came the miracle. Madonna wept with us, or perhaps
because we had forgotten her. Blood against stone. Tears
like the Volga, flowing tidal, no time to brim. The prayers
we had not spoken aloud were finally answered. A renewal.
This open wound of a woman, come back to life. Come back
to awaken us like the gentle stirring of a cold broth, a warming.

Second came the explanation. They gathered us together,
said be logical. Pharaoh’s magicians. They poured water down
through Mary’s face, reproduced her agony. She’s rusting, there,
this was probably rain
. A headscarf ruined itself to the ground.

Third came unholy martyrdom. Two scientists in the street,
beaten dead by our disillusion. The stirring, the warming.


Did I not notice it before?
How an airplane

becomes a winged cathedral
as it flies into the night

a floating church, one long aisle
cascading down the center

for a processional of travelers
to make their pilgrimage

this menagerie of strangers
united briefly by purpose.

Witness how the flight attendants
bring forth the eucharist

of Biscoff and holy wine
bestowed to saint and sinner.

Hear the unmistakable sound
of a voice from above.

Faint, spectral light seeps in
from rows of oval windows

this vessel touching heaven, almost
headed for the hands of God.

See the people grasp at rattled pews
praying for their lives.

Steven Duncan is a poet and medical student living in Dallas, TX. His poetry has been featured in Mojave River Review, Thimble, Prolific Press, Gleam and others. Steven was the 2018 winner of the Redrock Writers’ Founders Award. You can view more published work by visiting

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Photo Credit: “Crying Mary” by kafka4prez, (Modified by Veronica McDonald).

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