(em)brace yourself

Freedom and Loss
All of your gifts fit in one small hand.
Fingers pressed tightly, I wait
for the other voice to fall, the last
crystalline drop to slip away. Some fears
must be faced. Like swimming in the lake—ice
water assault, the breath grab of descent—how
it rewards those who steel and stay.
Shock fades to warmth, fades to ecstasy. This
is freedom: to hurt until extremities cease
to ache because blood conserves itself
in the boiling core of the body—where
eternity whispers, where life is kept,
though every other thing is lost.
{Tricia Gates Brown}


Our Lady of Guadalupe
Onto my shoulder I hoist
my pack of aims. Arrange them,
religiously, in my room,
beside change of shoes, four
books, vitamins. First,
Vespers. The bell chimes and I lurch,
judge who’s been the longest
by the ease of their gait.
On arrival, I marvel
men do this—five times a day,
plainsong the Psalms.
Hands fumbling in floor-length sleeves.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.
My mind still full of the day’s wars.
By morning I’ve sprawled
into solitude’s space. I walk
to nowhere on labyrinth trails
festooned with new clover and rocks
donning mossy afros.
Casting off the need to prove,
improve myself, I befriend
a modest book. In the languid
hours of afternoon, snooze.
My captors unarmed. Dusk
on the pond outside my cell
spreads like eiderdown. At
Compline—with candle glow
setting on icons and altar—
my pose yields, becomes a prayer.
As shapeless and open as mercy.
{Tricia Gates Brown]

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