by Ciaran Carson
I think I must have told him my name was Juliette,
with four syllables, you said, to go with violette.
I envisaged the violet air that presages snow,
the dark campaniles of a city beginning to blur
a malfunctioning violet neon pharmacy sign
jittering away all night through the dimity curtains.
Near dawn you opened them to a deep fall and discovered
a line of solitary footprints leading to a porch:
a smell of candle-wax and frankincense; the dim murmur
of a liturgy you knew but whose language you did not.
The statues were shrouded in Lenten violet, save one,
a Virgin in a cope of voile so white as to be blue.
As was the custom there, your host informed you afterwards—
the church was dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows.
A woman shrug and slight of step hobbling up the scarlet
aisle, intricately carved between aged cushioned wooden pews.
She, shrouded in pungent smell of candle-wax and lilies,
clutches coins firm in her grip, knuckles white, head slanted down
on her thin wrinkled neck. Her eyes? Slits, as tears flow freely
from beneath clinched lids, lashes twinkling moist yellow flashes.
“A poor widows mite, a poor widow’s mite, a poor widow’s
mite,” she whispers advancing. Heads turn, all eyes stare. She trembling
continues her assault, inch by inch the carpet woos her.
Chin now to chest, palms impressed by coins, cheeks chapped red by salt,
she kneels. Her body convulses, wracked with grief stricken sobs.
Hunched, she sways and intones her sins, naming each one clearly.
She rocks flagellating; her fingers loose depositing
her poor widow’s mite: cable car token and poker chip.