Two Poems by Laurie Byro


There is no mirror in Jerusalem.

Before my mother had a hole cut into her belly,
before she got the cancer that hissed and snaked

through her insides, I told her about Mary who

was a beggar I had met on the streets of Jerusalem
all those years before. Mary, sometimes

as she was able, apprenticed to stitch doe-skinned

cloths that held coins off her neck. She had hundreds
of soft pouches filled with talisman stones, or crumbled

frankincense. Mary, long before my mother, had a wound.

She would open her robes and allow strangers to put
their fingers into her bloody pouch. It made me think of sin

or something.  My mother slyly told me, her Mary

was different. That the Mary I met had been crazy with Jesus,
wild-eyed but not holy. Mom said Mary was probably not

a virgin, and definitely not anyone’s mother. She may

have been the heavenly hostess of coin-filled pouches,
in God we trust. This was Thanksgiving in 1989. Tonight,

when the night concentrates on its breathing, when the stars

listen to hear if there is a moral to my story, I have no Mother
to tell it to, no wounded mother to argue with. I want to

say it straight. There are no stories in Jerusalem worth saving,

no souvenirs worth keeping. All the mirrors have gone
to rust. These stories, I so urgently tell, are the new old lies.

Southeast Lighthouse Stairs

Block Island

From the north the winds lie long and light slants
differently this time. I stick October into a socket of bone,
readjust its broken arm. I howl beside the goldenrod

along these cliffs, startle finches into flight. Ragged
feather dusters of cattails rove between their shoulders.

The air is yellowed with dust. I carry all of her there, a mosaic
of stones and fragments of bones, a skeleton key
with no door to open. She is the lazy strain of lost shells,

the deep green and copper rust of the body. Climbing
down nine flights of stairs, sometimes chasing the light

I lay her down among the tall grass. She is the flinty spark
off a match I cannot strike. A gingham dog tears at my father’s
hand, laps his last slurp of water. I lie to the man who wants her

ashes to mingle with his. I tell him I have saved all of her
for him. I want the sea to take back all of my mistakes. Carved

and thick as a pane of old glass the tide sweeps
the beach. It picks through stones with crooked fingers of salt.
The tide, they tell me, will be coming in soon.

About the author

Laurie Byro's short stories and poetry draw on myth, fairytale and her experiences of foreign places in the years she worked as a travel…

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Issue 16 · October 2012

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