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Mary Before the Pageant


ISSUE:  Summer 1993

Pinned in to the scratchy scarf
and curtain-gown, she tries seeing herself
from a long distance-beyond her parents’

pew up front, and the children’s choir where
her little brother fidgets in his angel wings:
from the shepherds’ hill that should be there

to the left of the altar, or the God-haunted sky
with its brilliant (not tin-foil) star, which is why
everyone is here. And why she’s

walking down the aisle the brides walk down,
a single step at a time, and one step-
out of respect, as Reverend Hirschoff said

it would have been back then-behind
her Joseph-husband, who’s torn his robe
wrestling a wise-man. It’s best to go second,

not to see Joseph’s face while she’s Mary,
since it’s only the face of Billy Ledbetter,
smug and pasty, and smirking, probably,

the way he smirked last week when she got
her spelling grade docked, for swinging
at him in the middle of pen-du-lum-

then he whispered again, louder,
smart girls never get tits, as Mrs. Ledbetter
ordered her into the time-out-room. Tonight, though,

she’s the mother with the special child-toy Jesus
in his towel-and she knows things he and Joseph,
who won’t look back, have no idea about.

Like that you keep an elbow crooked this way
behind the head of the baby,
or else his neck could snap.

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