Madonna di Addolorata

Footsteps bounce off the walls of the forgotten church,
and I watch another curved spine approach the wooden
Madonna, gripping her crumbling toes as if she is the only
railing on a shifting staircase. She is luminous—

she is also under a halo of plastic lights, and attached to
electrical wiring. I rise to inspect her myself.
Petrified fabric engulfs her flesh almost entirely,
except for her bare arms, bent into an empty cradle.

In this unlovely Madonna, I see you too: sagging
breasts and crinkled knees that you hid under layers
of baggy clothing, those cradle-arms where you mourned
the loss of a daughter until your tears spouted salty vapor,

those worn feet that ran from the family line, traded southern
etiquette for rhythm and blues, dared to include your children
in your music-making though we slept aloof
in guitar cases—here you stand with downcast face

gazing directly to my left and asking once more,
where are you. But Mother, I am only where you just were,
draped in a billowing attempt at invisibility, fumbling out of your
wings and into the uncertain horizon.

Lily Greenberg