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Only More So by Millicent Borges Accardi

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Faith

Accardi, Millicent Borges

  At night the careful hands 
           of nuns tuck underneath poker-faced
            hips, and braid spirals. Spurious 
             dry fingers comb, wrap around, 
                and memorize a lost art.

         They rock quietly against the mattress
                   and dream of things 
                    they will not do.

                  Outside the cloister
            a milky statue of the Virgin Mary
                      stands. Arms

                       collected, 
               face cast down, shielded by 
           Botticelliís wreath; under half lids
            stony, rambling, the eyes breathe.

          The marble skirt encloses other eyes,
        petals too. While faithful prayer-sitters
                   speculate humidity,

                the pedestalís scalloped 
                 edge embeds Maryís feet 
                 in Venusís half-shell.

          From inside the white-washed convent
                 the inhabitants rush to
           genuflect in disinfectant and soap.

                        Too fluid 
                for focus, they stop, now 
                and then, to gaze through 
                  the thick third floor 
             curtains at the statue below

               where Sunday children touch 
             Maryís stone breasts and place
                potted roses at her feet,
                    wishing, wishing.

               As young girls, nuns nodded 
              Godís halo around their hair
         and lit single candles. When the mother 
               superior lifted their veils
              she offered wax for sealing.

                 After the benediction, 
                     like the newly 
                     dead, nuns don 
                      solemn white.

                  The only other color
            they ever wear flows onto cotton
                      rags between
                      their thighs.

              This stale aired extra room,
                   this end of a knot,
              this jump into frozen water,
            this daughter waiting for words,
                      every month,
         it requires this cardinal leap of faith
                    for them to still 
                         believe  
                          they 
                           are 
                          female.

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