After a Stroke, My Mother Examines a Picture of the Icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Lady, why is your countenance
the color of vole feet
draggling from the jaws of a cat?
What tribe of mud daubers
stung stars onto your mantle?
Who names the fumbles
that topple from your breasts?
Your counterspell blunts
the jagged crescent
of every campesino’s
charmed and smoldering scythe.
Your spooled mouth waits to unfurl
the ticker tape of your vow.
In torchlight, your eyebrows
fly to heaven on thin wings of soot.
Only the moon survives
the crush of your heel.
Virgin of Guadalupe, I pray for your handshake,
I pray for your ribs, I pray for your hips,
the ones tugged dry
while expelling that bountiful head
ordained to gnaw
all the hangnails of history.
Steer me, Lady, through the lightning
that browns the mountains.
Drown the infections
that flush my cough into a gargle.
Virgin, who never burned a supper,
strip me of strangles, grizzles,
knots, of scratched jazz
skipping the shadows
out of my sleep.
Princess of the Aztecs,
thread my poncho with roses this winter
that I might adorn that tomb slab
where even cayenne would cool,
where your son’s brain was looted
of its chemical salves,
and where his feet, which stretched the sea
smooth as a conga head,
refused to rest
at right angles to the ground.
Kiss me, mother of Mexico’s hope--
your little mouth
is still rusty with smoke.
This poem was first published in Rhino and in the poet's book, House You Cannot Reach--Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems.
Tom Daley was a machinist for over two decades. His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poetry Ireland Review, and elsewhere. Recipient of the Dana Award in Poetry and the Charles and Fanny Fay Wood Prize from the Academy of American Poets, he leads poetry writing workshops at the Online School of Poetry, Boston Center for Adult Education, and Lexington Community Education.
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