Veronica’s Rosary. A Poem by Marie Marshall

Veronica’s rosary
I followed Veronica to San Stae* where I spied on her,
a stalker me, glimpsing her veil from the back of the church**
as she danced, so I call the genuflections, bows,
forehead-to-navel and clavicle touches, as she sang,
so I call her responses and amens. I moved by twos and threes
until I sat across from her

    – she looked once, smiled, and closed her eyes
    in what could have been taken for prayer if not
    for that ripple at the corner of her mouth –

watching her play the ivory bead game.
Those are illegal, you know, I said to her once,
as a yellow day-egg rose above the rooftops, and she made
that arpeggio with her tongue that indexes merriment for her.
Nevertheless I stole them and, at the depth of my own wallet,
had an old craftsman in apron and shade study them
in a gemster’s glass, and scalpel a replica from cunning plastic.
Veronica, a cycle or so later, placed a finger under my chin
to tilt it.
You think I don’t know? she said. These are so much warmer,
and the prayers are heard when I thumb my way through the calendar,
because a deed of love comes with them.

Despite that – wow! – I’m ashamed.

    * She knew;
    I’d refused to come to mass, but dogged her from fascination,
    watching her pivot between shoulder and shoulder,
    between hip and hip,
    placing one foot after the other
    with catwalk deliberation, with the rise and fall pavane
    of a woman in a to-the-floor gown, studied to me
    but natural

to all the blind men dazzled by her gold.

    ** A vecchia engaged me there, offered to take me forward to eat the wafer,
    and when I declined said if I was not a Christian to look a while
    at the Man of Pity on the cross, it would touch my heart, as it did,
    one crucifixion among a thousand thousand,
    one day among a thousand thousand,
    how many slaves had met the same Easter,
    I thought but didn’t say.

Bio – Marie Marshall (3rd person)

MM is a middle-aged Anglo-Scottish author, poet, and editor, who says little about herself, preferring to let her writing speak. She has had three novels published, two of which are for the young adult / older children readerships. Both of her collections of poetry are currently in publication. Naked in the Sea (2010) in its 2nd imprint, is available in e-book form direct from publishers P’kaboo and in Kindle version on Amazon; the 1st imprint may still be available in print, if you enquire at Masque Publishing of Littlehampton. I am not a fish, nominated for the 2013 T S Eliot Prize, may be bought direct from publishers Oversteps Books. Marie has had well over two hundred poems published in magazines, anthologies, etc., but has not submitted anything since 2013. The most unusual places in which her poetry has appeared are on the wall of a café in Wales, pinned to trees in Scottish woodland, and etched into an African drum in New Orleans Museum of Art.
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