Je vous salue Marie, pleine de grâce; le Seigneur est avec vous. Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les
femmes, et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrails, est béni. (French Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary)
I can’t knock fucking as a concept
when he wheedles, can a true catholic
school girl really cry, can she really say no?
What he means is, will that cute uniform
stretch. Will she really stay knocked up.
It feels fucked up, like that plaster serpent
must feel: stuck, perpetually beatific, crushed
beneath the life-sized vierge Marie’s right foot
upon the landing of the second-floor East stair.
Each June, the snake’s anointed: Kotex pad
across the eyes. One bled upon, or painted red,
who knows, to match the lipsticked names
scrawled on the wall, the names of girls who’re
graduating pregnant. Pretend it’s all immaculate
conception. Watch our tight-kneed swaths
of pantyhosed legs shush by, pseudo-chastely.
Le fruit de tes entrails, Marie. Are wombs
so interchangeable with guts to you, or don’t you
have more words for these to savour in our prayers?
Can men join in, Marie? They’ve entrails, too,
and we’ve both seen men palming guavas tenderly,
the fruit the same size as that plastic, clinic model
of a first-trimester embryo. We’ve both seen men
weighing firmly-cased pink flesh against their chests.
Tu eres nuestra madre y lo que tu quieras sera lo mejor para nosotros. Reconoceremos tu poder
en el cielo y en la tierra y el influjo maternal que tienes sobre el corazón adorable de tu divino
hijo. (Prayer to the Virgin at the shrine of Carmen de Apicalá)
Let us pray for my grandmother’s face
when I waddle downstairs, my crotch
swaddled in wads of toilet paper to ask mama
where the tampons are. Dropping her coffee cup
mid-yawn, abuela yaps out, ¡Pero mija! ¿Niñas
virgenes?! I’m halted, bleeding and conspicuous.
Damp hallelujas flop through mama’s laugh,
she lauds that modern girls are no pale primroses
praises that modern virgins flow pragmatically.
Abuela’s pious rigor mortified: her pale face
pinched, she pinching a medallion of the virgin
that lies buried in her breast. My little flower
so ardently defended from the influence of phallic
clods of cotton. From the dark, pedantic flood
of honour’s wounds. From the faltering faith
of mothers in the sacredness of girls.
Carmen, your copper effigy’s a little charm
around my lover’s wrist. We pray for you
to guide my body’s memory to the lilting shape
your accent takes. To help my mouth remember
to pronounce some semblance of the mountains
that swallow your shrine. Carmen, your image sticks
against his palm, rouged by an unexpected influx
of my blood against his skin, against our sheets.
It was a lady; her cloak and cap were of snow. She was tall and of slender figure, and of a
dazzling whiteness. It was the Snow Queen. (From The Snow Queen by Hans Christian
Scudding across the steely Saint Laurent,
we cringe from the wind, share a shivering
ice cream. The cruise sidles tightly to close
on a roiling white knot of belugas ahead.
Kids crowd up the railing, the little shits.
Their tour guide crackling reminders: please
keep your hands, feet, heads, hearts behind
the painted yellow line. So much muscle
brawns the water’s surface, skin like paint
thickly clotted. A tide of silence soaks
the deck like the hush that harsh-whispers
a stubbed toe, a curst shout in church
as we spy the long, thick-knotted members,
maroon in the fog. Nodding fiercely and wielding
a hunger too sore to explain as they slip-slide,
leave score marks on pearlescent flanks.
I have let your bare arms crackle against my thighs
like TV static, like the voices in prayer I recall
from my asthmatic youth. Like the August snow
that pricks the photographs we sneak of children
ogling belugas in an orgy. In the slurry of whale-
white ice cream that we slurp are the liquified
forms of the haloes we’ve lost. Look: we come
so far for pleasure, for sweets in the cold.
With all our ups and downs, at what point
does our inclination lead to our decline?
For failed object permanence, please press one. For jealousy,
press three. For polyamorists: press any number, gently.
Let us drink, let us pool our cupped palms:
all my sexual traumas, your chain-smoked monogamies.
I have been missing your voice
like bleached bones dream of flesh.
We are both anxious cancers just waiting to happen.
We may as well probe one another for overgrowths as we converge.
Rebecca Salazar is the author of Guzzle (Anstruther), and edits for Qwerty, The Fiddlehead, and icehouse poetry. Her writing has lately appeared in Room, Prism, Minola Review, and The Puritan. Originally from Sudbury, Ontario, she is currently a PhD candidate and Vanier scholar at UNB.