Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Holiness, Again
for Lia Purpura

Waiting to board at gate D60,
a young woman clutches a German
passport in one hand and, with the other,

secretly tickles a dark-tanned child’s
foot as he sleeps in his mother’s lap.
I’m trying to explain holiness

again (still), and because I’m sitting
in an airport I’m certain to fail.
Though conditions could be worse,

she could be French, kneeling in the Basilique
du Sacré-Cœur, a church with silence
enough to pull any American in,

away from the musicians and living
statues, the skyline view of Paris,
and say a prayer cobbled together

from life as a CEO Christian
(Christmas and Easter Only),
an almost-atheist who stumbled

into a Jesuit university and kept on
stumbling. Days before graduation,
a teacher explained poetry

makes small moments holy. Then
she told me I could eat ice cream
for breakfast the rest of my life

if I wanted. Je voudrais crème glacée.
I proposed to my wife at Sacré-Cœur,
wandering its marmoreal bones,

Love is us graffitied inside its cupola skull.
But all that’s useless as the airport.
No one gets engaged in Paris

and the truth is never sufficient
reason to tell a story. Instead, read
the distance between finger and toe,

the silent horror in the German’s blue
eyes at being caught and the mother’s
brown orbs flashing from fear to anger

before softening. Consider the sleeping
child who will never know how fiercely
and strangely he was loved in that moment,

the unexplainable ice cream he will wake to.  end  

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