Household Gods

by Elizabeth Harlan-Ferlo

Cicero, De Domo Sua

Jesus hangs golden in my grandmother’s house
on polished cherrywood, each bedroom.
Two palm branches, slightly slipped from their x,
press between cross and wall.

The most sacred,
the most hallowed place on earth:

Outside, snow cracks sidewalks
and factory windows. My grandfather
digs out the car, drives the empty streets of Rome, New York,
to his cousin’s bakery, to help deliver the bread.

the home
of each and every citizen.

In the kitchen, a plaque high up proclaims Him
unseen guest at every meal.


Jesus ascends in my father’s house
between the front windows,
an Impressionist white smudge with hands.
He rides the dark while two figures below look up.

There are his sacred hearth
and his household gods,

Outside, yellow cabs and delivery trucks
thump over the perpetual steel plate in the street.
My mother, returning, puts down
two bags, one full of books.

there the very center of his worship, religion
and domestic ritual.

Near the kitchen, a stained glass panel, alight:
“In the Beginning was the Word.”

ELIZABETH HARLAN-FERLO’S poetry is forthcoming in The Windhover. Previously, her work has been published in Sugar House Review, Fourteen Hills, Tupelo Quarterly, Valparaiso Review, Anglican Theological Review, and Burnside Review, among others. She received her MFA from the University of Oregon and lives in Portland, where she curates Interfaith Muse, a project that explores spiritual questions through civic dialogue and creative arts.

Photo: “Dowling House Sign” by Dan Tantrum