Through the long autumn afternoon,
Her hand circles the silver locket case;
She believes she has a placid mind now,
The dull and spare season’s dryness going
With the dead light of dawn as only blind
Trust goes preparing the return of joy.
Taking her entire existence she remembers
The times she was taken, her lover’s hand
Gentle-easy on her thigh and breast,
Acquiescent in her belly altering
Behind her eyes the belief held by her mother.
She thinks she has begun to understand
The woman inside herself who learned
To stand naked before him, the conscious
Figure that she is and can’t go home to,
A smoking desert, a standing pillar of salt.
In the psalm she turns to read prayer and love
Unite with unforced grace; but then the hateful self
Begins to hiss, the staggering giddy self
Once caught only in warning whispers:
The old narrative of a woman fire-tempered
For better or worse by gorging herself,
Filled by the pulsing velvet of others.
In her coming autumn’s ease she will kneel
To cup clear water from the pasture stream;
She will understand herself as unresisting
Spongy moss; she will remember then
Something heard at church the day before:
Only Pilate’s wife was saved, only she proclaimed
God’s face in the man suffering before her.