Rough Alcaics: Nursing with the NYT

Sometimes I wish I still waitressed at Pug’s bar.
You turned tables, drank your shiftie, another
            at a friend’s joint, a flocking party
           of well-groomed crows who loved glitz, coke, crosswords –

maybe fucked then went home with cash which you stored
in two yogurt containers in your nightstand:
            one for rent, one for everything else.
            Pietà would have drawn a blank, although

I’d seen it in Spain, obedient student
of cultural capital, a trek to scorch
           lack, native crop of flyover towns.
           But sometimes I rebelled, as with these dopes

Mary and Jesus and Mary and Jesus.
I tired of it, gaudy religion: Jesus
            hung forward like a piece of Mary
            unpeeled, her abdomen flopped like a steak.

Marx was right, this was some old world opiate
of obvious pain – I returned to the bars.
            But today I nursed my small daughter,
            quiet with eyes closed in steady pleasure,

having just learned hunger and its cessation,
drifting to sleep; the confidence of habit
            now second-nature to us both, I
            realize I cradle her like Mary

           grainy photo of infants in Damascus
           gathered after the chemical fog cleared
                       white numbered shrouds with faces kept bare
                       waiting to be picked up by their mothers

Jesus, what is second-nature but bending
until one is overlaid with another –
           Stabat Mater Dolorosa, knives
            sheathed seven times in your heart, help me.

Kelly Morse’s creative work appears or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast, The Journal, Brevity, Flyway, and elsewhere; her chapbook, Heavy Light, is forthcoming from Two of Cups Press. Kelly holds an MFA from Boston University, is a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow and Vermont Studio Center grant recipient. Her translations of censored Vietnamese poet Ly Doi appear in Asymptote. and recently won Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize for Translation and Multilingual Texts. Kelly must be a sucker for extremes, because after living in Hanoi for two years she now endures lake effect snow with her partner and baby on the shores of Lake Superior.