To a Tiny Mary Carved in Basswood by John Okrent


for Annemarie

Blessed Virgin without feet
for a long time you were a tree
somewhere north of here
where the cold slows down the days
and grows a thicker grain,
broader shoulders for the roots
sent down to drink
from underground rivers for you to taste
and you do taste. And the look on your face
is the opposite of plastic. What is that?
Mary of sorrows.
Mary of spoons.
Through heavenless longing you came
to the other side of longing
which is not satisfaction but an aching thing:
proud, inarticulate, electric.
I don’t understand what grace is.
But in this room in winter
with its warmth of bodies and music
your tiny presence beats
like a whale’s heart.
Mary of the beggar’s bowl.
Mary of milk.
Mary of the moon’s hive of bees
with tiny black legs that drip silver honey
like your eyelashes that night
under these stars
when you were a living woman
swaddling the word made flesh, which wept
as you lay it down
where the pigs and sheep would come to drink.


John Okrent is a poet and a physician working at homeless shelters in New York City. He lives in Harlem with his wife, Xela, and their dog, Oscar. His work has been published in The Bridport Prize and in Artvoice.