To the portrait of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that hung in my grandparents’ foyer
I learned to harbour pain like Mary,
to smile softly and keep my eyes vacant even
with seven daggers cleaving at my heart.
I learned to keep my wounds clean when they wouldn’t close,
to wipe split flesh slick like custard,
to let the gaping quartz in my chest slush and ooze,
to watch myself bleed
and not wait for it to stop.
I learned to decorate discomfort
and put it on display.
I made my thorns the cream of the crop,
holier than a millenarian walking barefoot on a gravel road.
I learned to set my woes aside,
kept them catty-corner to my pride
under a cast iron tongue
and homespun humility.
I learned to offer open palms in surrender,
to hold the hand of threat
and wave hello to violence.
I learned to girdle my virtue with a sash of roses,
to corral my body behind a barbed wire fence
like a chicken pecking circles at its own feet.
Under your scrutinous halo,
I learned that sacrifice
was as close to me
as my own name.