My mother fell from faith
on a Tuesday in September
with the smell of carnations
and lilies settling themselves
into her black dress.
Her funeral dress – worn
five times this year,
three the year before.
The prayer book weighs heavy
in her hands and she opens
her mouth to join the chorus,
but no sound remains.
When I return from school,
she asks me if I still go to church.
I do not lie, I have not raised
my hands with sincerity in years,
and I tell her no. She nods,
neck like a wilting flower stem,
and says she does not either.
Says that if anyone is listening,
they can hear her prayers
outside the walls of the church.
I see the shadows of those walls
pool under her eyes, shoulders slumped
from the weight of gravestones.
I climb in the car, and the rosary
she kept around the gear shift
is gone. I ask where it is, and she smiles,
mouth pink like a carnation, and tells
me that it is broken, and I marvel at the guilt
of the faithful when prayers aren’t enough.
That night I catch her kneeling
at the foot of her bed, the light from
the cracked bedroom door
glinting off the green beads of the rosary
she has clasped in her hands,
the cross level with her eyes.
Her mouth does not move, I am not sure
if she is praying at all,
or merely meeting the gaze of Christ
and daring him to speak.