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Faithful See Virgin Mary in Office Window

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In flowerbeds we crowd, some praying,
some bowing as the world, minute as it is,
stays in motion: box stores doing business,

fast food joints, and above us a crow,
secular bird, lighting on a lamppost
while we take pictures or cry as if we could

live forever in this gloried surround,
gazing up at the window holding her bleared
hair, her mouth that is a frenzy of trapped

pollen or dust, eyes like smooth shells
that make us forget what fertilized
the flowers at our feet, bulbs fortified

with potash or bone meal, dried blood,
which reminds me of the Annunziata
I saw in Italy, painted by those who thought

color itself was divine: crushed shell,
coral and ash, pigments mixed with egg
in a man’s mouth, and I worry about

standing too close to the believers, I who
rubberneck and lie, do I stand too close
to the woman at least six months along

with her own child, waving a sonogram
with a faint infant shape inside, an image
scratched by waves: light squandered here,

dilated there, compressed oil and dust
as every body contains its atlas of salt,
kiss-worn, and always some bud dreamed

in springtime, and though I’m a yarner
and one for whom doubt is a clutched root,
I can’t yet walk to my car, standing here

wondering if after His birth the virgin girl
saw the rest of her life would be nothing
but a way to talk about that morning:

gold nearly blinding, herdsmen and kings,
and with its broad warm tongue
a cow licking the afterbirth from the hay.


Source: Poetry (December 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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Faithful See Virgin Mary in Office Window

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  • David Roderick grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts. At Colby College, where he earned his BA, he studied American Studies and creative writing. He earned an MFA at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and also studied poetry at Stanford University as a Wallace Stegner fellow.
    Roderick’s first book, Blue Colonial (2006), was chosen by Robert Pinsky as winner of the APR/Honickman Prize. Set in Plymouth, the book uses dramatic and narrative effects to explore the burdens of historical inheritance: vanished Native American tribes, the seeds of American culture, and our physical and psychological encroachment upon the natural landscape.
    The Pitt Poetry Series published Roderick’s second book, The Americans, in 2014. Poet and critic David Rivard writes of The Americans: “Like Robert Frank in his great photo essay of the same name, Roderick has some news for us: not only do we not know where we’ve come from, we don’t know where we are. With care and a restorative watchfulness,...

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