Kelle Groom

Twelve Wings & Mother of the Holy Hope
February 23, 2021 Groom Kelle



It was difficult to get a nurse.
Larry sends me a drawing full of eyes,
wetland gleam. We lay our flowers down.
The destroying angel has twelve wings:
pitch pine, red cedar. Black cherries, shadbush.
Grabs hold of evergreens on the way, waiting
to reach them. Skids down the hill of wet leaves.
The purple boundary is one limit of our perception.
Numbers connect with names in the Book of
These we know because there is a stone.
They are so close, one on top of another.
Like an arm thrown out, a gray arrow points:
down below in the bowl of leaves.
In 1856 a boy of eighteen created mauveine, mauve,
10,000 shells to make a single gram of purple until
it is a cape, shroud, the gown worn in remembrance.
We climb the top edge as if we are a tightrope.
There is no map and each wrong
of even carrying the bodies reminded him of the early
away in the woods, the fear of attending them.
And cold, hidden
white carnations small as a baby’s fist, damp.
Larry who carries a kind of funeral
on either side a church aisle, as this
ewers. Broad leaves of black oak and locust lit
the fire road which from above is a green.
I pulled off Route 6 into the sand.





Falling out of trees, off horses, ladders,
imprisoned, shot, wounded in explosions,
lost at sea, the women mostly in bed.
Three hundred & fifty years of accidents
& illness, pain painted on 700 tiles
in the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Bagno.


In 1657, a man in Casalina, Italy prayed
to an image of the Madonna & Child
broken from the bottom
of a drinking cup & placed in the branches
of an oak tree for safekeeping. The man,
Cristoforo, prayed for his sick wife,
& when he returned home, she was well.


He & his wife traveled back to the oak tree
in gratitude, hung an ex-voto, a painted tile
illustrating her illness, recovery, grace received.
Word spread. People wanted the bark, leaves.
I think of my father’s cancer, my mother’s stroke,
how I would do anything to save them, how they were saved.


A church was built. To save the tree,
it was brought inside & died, preserved
as a relic, with the original tile
from Cristoforo, which, when men
attempted to steal it, broke in their hands.
In 1980, 201 tiles were stolen, 40 damaged.
The church isolated, theft easy.
Ceramic powder scattered like ghosts
in the yellow air, empty squares on the walls,
smashed tiles, pews heaped. Long-gone thieves
covered with the white dust of centuries
of people saying thank you, thank you.


Kelle Groom is the author of the memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster), a Barnes & Noble Discover selection, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and a Library Journal Best Memoir. An NEA Fellow and Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow, Groom’s work appears in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, New England Review, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, Plume, and Poetry, among others. Her four poetry collections include Underwater City (University Press of Florida), Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and Spill (Anhinga Press). Her forthcoming memoir-in-essays, How to Live will be published by Tupelo Press in October 2023. Groom is a nonfiction editor at AGNI Magazine and lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.