I wanted to come home,
it just took too long to find the right plane.
Two years of eating grapes meant for wine,
wondering where the skin goes
when the flesh is juiced and fermented.
Maybe I would have thought of us
less if France had been more than cheese
and yardstick bread, more than yellow countryside
like Illinois when the corn is tall.
I forgot how days pass in New York –
stubborn mist shaking its mane on the highway,
snow that siestas in the sky for days.
His green towel, folded and hung
on the bathroom door, smelling so much like him.
First it was Vezélay. Clutching the skirt
of Mary Magdalene, who told me of her years
of desert shelter – the crows, the sand,
the sucking cactus. There were no angels
that delivered her to Christ’s oyster bar.
Just a jackrabbit she tore open with her hands,
blood she drank religiously.
Then Santiago de Compostela, where the hermit
found James under a transept of star,
his marrow drained, hair cleaned from skull. He waits
in stone sombrero, a staff cocked
in his left hand, a closed text in his right.
They think it’s the Bible,
and that these are my bones.
Finally, Ravenna, blackcaps warbling
on the telephone poles. Just south
of the pinewoods strangled by heather,
dog-rose, I ordered wedding soup.
I was finished with leaving,
with the thousand stone churches
that starved their towns.
Somehow this would make more sense
if there were myrrh or bdellium involved.
Because then he would laugh, open
his palms that clench and unclench at his thigh,
smile at the plastic snow globe
I bought in the Turin airport.
I look at him, but he's watching the planes
lift like storks from the sandbar willows.
Didn’t you hear, he says when I ask
how Michigan has been. Christ came back
as a bamboo shark last week.
And the Devils brought home the Cup.
Erin Elizabeth Smith
is a PhD candidate at the Center for Writers at the University of
Southern Mississippi where she serves as editor-in-chief of Stirring and founder of Sundress Publications.
Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Third Coast, Crab Orchard, West Branch, Willow Springs, Natural Bridge,
Gulf Stream, Good Foot, Slipstream, Bellingham Review,
and Reed Magazine
among others. (firstname.lastname@example.org