Mary Morris

(inside the ruins)

Red bison, yellow deer.

Within minutes the pigment fades, then dissolves from the sudden burst of air. Federico wears a miners hat, dirt, khakis, and boots. Darkness surrounds him. Federico is thinking fragment, delicate, the world of primitive and new, his mother’s Vespa, a modern chariot. It happens to be Ash Wednesday and he thinks of the Archbishop’s liturgy at the Vatican, from dust to dust. He thinks of catacombs, the beds of bones, of earth and salt, Mussolini and the eternal city. Fellini slides against the wall of rock in the cool, once sealed cavern, sits on the most ancient dirt of his country. He’s thinking bordello, the madrigal singers of Puccini, of opera, the baritone coming down the aisle, the way a storm enters a parched valley.  He thinks of Mass, the confessional, three boxes—forgiveness in the middle of the two sides of sin. He thinks Chianti, fucelli, the way cypress grow in long neat rows along the road to San Pellegrino. He thinks about the lace of his wife’s black mantilla, of weight and measure, the way water fills in arched aqueducts, their scheduled holes, the ancient history in his blood moaning among the ruins, a sound and a feeling he will carry   forever in his genes, a certain frantic attachment through the instantaneous separation of the departed from existence.


I envision The Dragons of Vortigern,

all the books I read to my ten year old son,

who has been a knight, king, captain of a ship,

Robin Hood stealing alms from my purse at midnight.

A dusty black dog breathes bear-heavy, next

to the side of his jeans, where pockets are filled 

with boy’s treasure—mica, bone, empty diamond

skin of a snake, velvet grey feathers of a grackle. 

He speaks to doves in the field.

They coo back.  

And by the evening candle, the manx cat purrs

from his blessed hands

the way a lion does in the arms of Daniel.


Each year I  buy a milagro, a small silver amulet
of hope and a blessing— first a horse, then a heart,

a house and a bird, a tiny green Buddha,
and a dog that looks just like yours,

the one who stayed with you when you were four, lost
in the maize of arroyos, then found.

Miracles aren’t mysteries that happen
only in someone else’s time and place.

They happen constantly, each moment
folding into another, the way you came here,

the way you passed through my body like light,
became bones, flesh, and blood.

How strange in this techno world,
the x-rays of you inside

and outside of me
the miracle of diagnosis and survive,

how, in the book of grace, two bodies
turn to three, each of us alive.

         after Frank O'Hara

When I was a child, I pretended to be a priest

and made Communion from coins of bread.

I practiced on my younger brothers

all five of them, even the baby.

This is my body. This is my blood.

My mother caught me once

and scolded me for being sacreligious,

so I never told her that my older sister

was hearing confessions, 

and we had to say, Bless me sister, for I have sinned,

before repenting to her Grace, for she was a Bishop.

And here I am, having always escaped

the organized matter of  religion, listening

to the rich acapella of gospel, so believing

in the conviction of those voices!

Mary Morris is the winner of the 2007 Rita Dove Award. Her work has appeared in Quarterly West, Indiana Review, Blue Mesa Review, Red Rock Review, Nimrod, The Sun and many others. To solicit  further work, contact



Current Issue
Contributors' Notes

Email this poem Printer friendly page

A CLOSER LOOK: Terence Winch

Karren Alenier

Gary Beck

Bob Boston

Grace Cavalieri

Norma Chapman

Lydia R. Cooper

Niamh Corcoran

Laura Fargas

Simki Ghebremichael

GTimothy Gordon

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller

Ron Goudreau

Taylor Graham

Jonathan Highfield

Susan A. Katz

Ann Knox

Judy Kronenfeld

Barbara Lefcowitz

Israel Lewis

Caroline McNeil

Susan Meehan

Mary Morris

Beth Paulson

Roger Pfingston

Shep Ranbom

Heddy Reid

Elisavietta Ritchie

Noel Smith

John Surowiecki

Steven Trebellas

Patrick Uanseru

Pamela Murray Winters

Kathi Wolfe

Ernie Wormwood

Leo Yankevich

Katherine E. Young















Last Updated: Feb 22, 2020 - 12:30:13 PM

Copyright 2005 - 2020 Cook Communication.