Kelli Russell Agodon
The Quiet Collapse of the Dharma Shop
I celebrate small things
—apples, beetles, faith--
while inside my mind
there’s rattling, a broken stove
of worry, a garden
of hissing snakes.
I can’t recognize the flowers.
The plants are without names
(though their poisons still sedate).
I left the garden during meditation—mosquitoes,
craneflies. But enlightenment?
Nowhere near my space.
Buddha. God. Universe.
I charged spirituality
on my VISA
—a statue of Kuan Yin, prayer flags
to hang across the gate. But what
might improve my mood is
a new bra and some bravery.
Instead, I try on superstition, wear
a D-cup of doomed fate.
I mix religions—say chaos and calm,
corset, cheesecake--a smorgasbord
on my plate. I am the chainsaw
carving the toothpick. A lowercase sos.
Yesterday, I bought a silver cross.
Magic. Amulet. Saints.
I pray to anything these days--
the plants without names, the beetles,
my garden of hissing snakes.
Coming Up Next: How Killer Blue Irises Spread
Under the Covers We Find Jesus
Under the covers we find a picture of Jesus
and you say your mother was cleaning
the guest room,
cleaning and it must have fallen
from the wall.
You say your mother, a neatnik,
was cleaning and she didn’t leave Jesus
in our bed as a reminder,
the reminder we’re not married.
It’s not a sign of our soon-to-be sin,
Jesus in our bed, an accident, a misplaced Lord.
There is a small plastic Mary on the dresser.
You say, If she wanted to scare us,
Mary would be upside down on the pillow.
Still, Jesus appeared in his thorny crown as I pulled
down the sheets, Jesus and his soft brown eyes,
so welcoming, so forgiving,
Jesus, sweet Jesus
with lips like yours, pink and ready to kiss
goodbye to this evening, this faithful evening
of figs left on the counter
by your mother, figs and a loaf of fresh bread
she baked with faithful hands.
A Mermaid Questions God
As a girl, she hated the grain of anything
on her fins. Now she is part fire ant, part centipede.
Where dunes stretch into pathways, arteries appear.
Her blood pressure is temperature plus wind speed.
Where religion is a thousand miles of coastline,
she is familiar with moon size, with tide changes.
She wears the cream of waves like a vestment,
knows undertow is imaginary, not something to pray to.
Now her questions involve fairytales, begin
in a garden and lead to hands painted on a chapel's ceiling.
She wants to hold the ribbon grass, the shadow of angels
across the shore. She steals a Bible from the Seashore Inn;
she will trust it only if it floats.
I may never be happy, but tonight I am content.
She turned knobs all evening.
Still the telescope remained
unfocused on the powder
of a satellite, a blur:
a moon, a moth.
Open maps of craters
papered the earth.
Bats looped from treetop
to treetop. She focused
full-attention—what was that?
A gunshot? Imagine,
someone’s last sight—a clear night
and the halo of the moon. Or not.
A car backfired and a new galaxy
created from its exhaust. Clouds
appeared like curtains.
She aimed the scope at a star
with a name like Cancer or Columba,
or maybe she caught a plane
settling in the distance.
Her elbow slammed the tripod
and the telescope rocked,
reconnected with the earth.
Gravity-loving, sturdy little thing.
Through the eyepiece she peered
towards what she believed was Bliss
or Dove, jagged craters
sharpening one after another.
Because the dress was worn.
A blue of forgetting.
A blue dress I might fold
in a basket and carry to the meadow.
The weathervane cannot tell me
if it will snow.
The blue isn’t
mine, but I wear it. Through
frost and foolishness,
a field of mourning,
a Sunday morning when I awoke
to learn she was
no longer. Blue
dress of basket. Blue dress
of memory, hospital parking lot,
missing bead in my bracelet.
Because I was worn,
I slept in the car, maybe
the blue dress was a blanket, maybe
a pillow. I am a hollow-boned
bird in the meadow, blue wings
of my dress. Maybe a god of blue,
a lullaby of willow.
I run from myself, remove everything,
everything I can from my skin.
I raise the dress over my head
and it becomes my sky.