In Search of Grace

With slush to ground the Erie trees
the yearly pilgrimage begins:
Good Friday 5 a.m. “He’s so fine”
clock radio alarm for the predawn vespers
of monitory sermons and tumbles into pews
of backseat condemnation. With our triptiked
book of hours lying on the dashboard,
we crawl and coast a budding I-75
round the crumble of Appalachian trails
(JesusKatieChristopher!) of bold
and broken lines, and triangles
cautioning boredom and dirt
of construction work to reach statio una
choo choo Chattanooga, let us bow our heads
for eggs and links and hominy grits.
Journeying on little sister is bound to betray
the brother: the crossings, denials,
the scourge and stigmata of welts on birdlike
thighs, Mother’s thoughts of worshipping
suns and early retirement broken by
I’ll-slap-you-silly-if you-touch-her-again.
Eight hours more to statio dua Valdosta
with its horror-film moss knitting
penitent mansions, fried chicken and gravy,
and a musty room with a red-eyed, angry father.
At dawn we head on to the next:
morning’s Welcome Fair, the flare
of netted oranges and grapefruit
and blossomwax: we anoint the skin
to salve our souls for the onslaught
of sulfur and rot of the tidal corpses.
Then, the holy vision of steel and blue hereafter,
the Sunshine Skyway, a sign of the miracle:
transforming snow into sea;
easing parkas from our backs.
With this new whiteness burning our feet
we purge our milky bodies,
Saint Pete guides us on to a cache
of exoskeletons, copper-toned
blisters, and baskets of French-
fried shrimp. Ah, the tongues of reverie,
menfolk follow the Fisherman; Mother,
the Golden Keys; me, forever amid
the slippery fish till the squeals
of briny glee become the five states of silence,
and hence our true way of sorrow,
the dread of reverting north
to the station of our daily bread,
starting our count of the 345 beads
till our sojourn in paradise
might rise and dawn anew.

 

 

Lisa Rose Bradford is a poet, translator, university professor, and rancher. Her poems, essays, and translations have appeared in numerous magazines. Four of her book-length, bilingual editions of Argentine poet Juan Gelman’s verse have been published, and the first received the National Translation Award in 2010. Presently residing in Mar del Plata, Argentina, she is finishing a fifth volume, “Hoy/Today,” selections of which debuted in Plume in 2014.

 

 

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