The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Lesley Valdes
In the parking lot in front of the Shell station
In the parking lot in front of the Shell station,
a chair, a prie dieu
like the nuns used.
even if you didn’t pray—and the chair
inviting hips ampler than hers.
Made for whom?
You want what?
They needed a table,
But the chair
laddering hope to home
curved slats bridging then to then—
looming tall for daughters unborn
to scramble to its lap
trace the curled top, a Napoleon hat,
framing then to then
She’s at art school, the eldest.
Top prize for the life-size Picasso-ish horse,
noble slant to bronze head.
I was thinking of the chair.
The summer I came back East
friends lent their fine old house—
A spider to the pomegranate,
lush window seats, a purple
couch. My friends had lived in Jeddah,
good jewels and spices.
Above the fireplace, his ancestors eyed
each other; hers painted the 18th-century
botanicals. I wanted things
I’d never thought about—sea glass,
an idle table.
Considering the poet’s library
I couldn’t write. I fed the birds,
At night I was afraid
of one brown bat.
The day I left I went into the kitchen,
took her cutting board
shaped like a pig.
In the Spanish Chapel
On the ceiling the ocean tips a boat too small to hold eleven men.
Some stare into the sea, some stand as I stand seasick
looking up at them.
Under the swollen mast one covers his face, another could be Peter
the one who makes me want to shout
Who made this fresco understands the dread that sleeps in water,
the worry of the swells.
I find his name and learn my apprehension
missed the miracle—
Peter kneeling in the sea
beneath his strolling Lord.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Before the Spanish Eleonora took the space,
it was the Chapel of the Faults.
Dominicans confessed their sins out loud.
You see them painted on another wall
rows and rows of monks
pretending not to mind.
The power of Florence. The piety.
Sweetgrass. I can’t forget the herding of a hundred thousand
sheep across the Beartooth Mountains. Magnificent
bewildered creatures caught in blinding white.
The looks upon their faces
—the men in Peter’s boat
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