Pamela Garvey

A Prayer in Two Parts

Don’t speak to me in the abstract. And not in symbols.

The gems of light clarifying the leaves are gems.

The widowed women of the Orthodox church

kiss the icons. Without them, you are nothing.

The Hagia Sophia still stands, but not for you;

its minarets, its dark dome… are now a compass

guiding the city that broke beyond the walls of Constantine.

In the cathedral, his mosaic head bowed and haloed,

his face shallow, he offers his empire to the Virgin and child.

And Mary accepts the present by looking into us.

The lapis lazuli of her gown is the glitter of a thousand tiles,

hundreds darkened in spots to creases and folds…

more words in the webbed story that thieves have cut

for little nuggets of gold,

and what would the stolen stones reveal?

Don’t talk to me about all creatures great and small…

the deer I surprised, his night-black eyes locked

in the petrified stare of prey — one of your faces, and so

no more, no less, than the pigeons eating from my hand.

No. Like us, each creature equals the rate of its pulse.

And so we crave a rush, anything to undo the constant

tick-tock of our bodies… To touch is to know:

the columns of the Parthenon, smoothed to slow erosion;

the icons kissed away. Take these lips, tongues, fingers,

brushing the objects of mystery. So hungry

to grasp, we collide, finally with one another,

only to fumble into the tingling that starts at the skin,

deepens to the gut. The body rocked, fucked

into oblivion is the one that touches you.