Cold February, Galway Novena comes around again.
Students burst home past the Cathedral’s line.
The rain starts to come down hard and under white flap,
a trailer is a serendipitous sheltering where I browse tin-silver
Mary-embellished bracelets, medals and rings.
A woman walks, a Titian blue cardigan like nun’s habit turned inside out,
drenched to her hair. The holy-swag seller, a man devoid of chat,
has his hands crossed like the reposed. His hands are a weathered Islander’s:
waxy, tanned with chubby tips. His hands marked by buried welts from oars
and pony-strap traps draw me back to an afternoon in a split-house
in South Gaines Street, Little Rock—
back to questions of repair, of pining and of the attached—
back to minding a strangeness—back to the kill-heat
of an August in Arkansas, back to the taxi ride from the airport,
back to letting myself in, back to the want for a shape on things.
It was a mutual friend at a wedding, due to return.
It was new conversation and the surprise of a person when least expected.
It was the mention of an important name: his friend deceased
who smiles broadly in several wooden frames. His kindness, phosphenes
off his tongue. His smile, a stacked skyline among sacred heart idols.
The dead man’s wife got many holy tokens over the years from friends,
he explained. I told him about the white trailers that sell bric-á-brac
during the Novena—little slots filled with beliefs and hopes.
Trailers that sell—the rest of the year—chips, cans, crisps and burgers
at matches, concerts, beaches and sides of roads.
I told him about a Virgin Mary ring that left a weed-green band
around the base of my middle finger when I was young.
Copper made green out of oxygen and acids. Green made from
summer sports sweat,
washed hands, peas of rose-perfumed creams.
His drawl spoke towards his hand
where a knuckle was bumpy from use of a Beveller’s hammer.
He told me more about the passing: brain tumour, twenty-nine.
Could I reach out then and softly rub his hand with mine? The
dead heat came in again so, we sat out on the porch
For the slant breeze off the fan. Ankles-up on the ledge
punch cans like blue-and-white statues on our laps.
The cicadas click in the trees on South Gaines Street
the fan’s rotation was the sound of a river flow. This damned
Galway rainwater is a jug knocked over the awning’s edge.
The trombone of the Longview train breaking the night
at 3 a.m. in Little Rock is now a beeping car where I am, at home.
Hands work to sand rough edges clean.
And as the clouds spill out, cold February, a whet for warmth,
and the seams of love, tug and flood, turning everything green.