by Claudia Monpere
The Five Joyful Mysteries
1. Pray the grime-coated stairway of 1 Scammel Street. Smoke-stained walls and fallen chunks of plaster. The floor we painted cheer yellow.
2. Two little doves that move shoulder to shoulder over the sword. And I sloughed off my name and summoned Sister Mary Alphonsa.
3. My first cancer patient, face hugged with bandages. Her hurricane eyes, those red verbena lips. We sat on boxes and sipped tea. The word made flesh.
4. The decades begged harvest. The decades conjured Rosary Hill Home: acres of plum trees, apples, pears. Beehives.
5. Sherry for the dying poor. Starlings. Red winged blackbird.
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries
1. That garden birthed agony not clusters of grapes.
2. Leather whip, chunks of bone and lead at the end.
3. St. Rose of Lima wore a nail studded circle upon her head.
4. I carry no cross, nothing but my scooped-out self and a palm of rose petals.
5. Cancer of the face, mouth, tongue, neck. Itching bleeding oozing. Garbage dump for dead dogs and rag pickers. Loose pigs under a tropic sun. (They know not what they say.) The cancerous poor: they grow the years. Each a singular petal. How this will end.
Glorious Mysteries. Wednesday.
Water. Spirit. Sky. Left behind: sleigh party, bonnet with feathers and beading.
Beef, butter, jelly cake. My husband.
I cradle onions, potato parings, and bread drippings.
Papa wandering the woods of his soul—distance is required.
Masquerade ball. I was ten
and Titania. My silver wand,
ambrosia wings. Fairy speech
fed with purple grapes and honey bags.
Shine I did, and sing the guests.
Pray cancer’s purple nails and lips.
The gurgling, rattling breath
and mottled skin.
Bless this place.
And sing again.
CLAUDIA MONPERE’S poems and fiction appear in Smokelong Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Bellevue Review, California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, and elsewhere. Nonfiction is forthcoming in River Teeth. She recently completed a Hedgebrook residency in poetry, and teaches writing at Santa Clara University.
Featured Image: “Mary Alphonsa, Mother Superior of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne“