Wise Poets – Jacinta V White – Church Mothers

Jacinta V White

women in white dresses surround
me after service like absent mothers
longing for baby’s return to their breasts
             rejoicing—prayers for a daughter’s return are answered
             while they wait in line to tell me
             they knew my folks, and how they knew me
young, in pigtails and knee-highs, they
remind me when I was not yet full
of the life I now hold
             behind my eyes
             pain taking up space
             I thought no one could see
women, gray curls spiraling from beneath
their cloth hats, twist both my arms in theirs
take her to the altar one says to the other
             I am caught up in their strength
             speechless and well-taught to not
             resist this kind of salvation
we fall to our knees
caught by a purple, velvet cloud
and wooden rails
             blood and water sprinkled on my forehead
             forgive they firmly whisper
             their breath on each of my cheeks
say you forgive

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