Mary Magdalene as a Child

                                        —after Robertson


          A small brick house that could not be blown down,

not by wolves, by crooks, or hurricane fights.

          Windows dark, curtains drawn.

In his cave of television reruns, dim smoke. She froze

          when her toes edged the room’s pitch black, then bolted

up the stairs to her bedroom each night.


          Her stepfather thought a child of his own blood

would be cleaner. No other child came. No matter.

          He could teach her to dust, polish

floorboards by hand. She could be worthy,

          but was not. Next lesson, bathroom in the basement.

Swabbing up stains from his dribbling pee.


          Alone was best. To wade in the creek

up to her chest, water’s cold fingers.

          Gentle current. Silently walking

on wet limestone. All sounds drained away against

          the bright glint of rocks, clamoring cold.

A moment to float.


          She peered into her face

holding a small compact of shadows. Cerulean,

          like the most inescapable parts of the ocean.

When he came home, he said, “Stop

          acting like the whore you are.” Her mother

handed her a washcloth, hid

          the compact for another day.


          She stepped into the kitchen, wanting

a glass of water. He stormed

          down the hallway towards her.

Coal-colored body, blotted by light.

          He was wearing only boxers, meat tenderizer in his hand.


          The late summer leaves were cups

of sunlight, bellies of green. The world swelled

          like an egg about to explode.

It hurt her eyes to see the young rabbit, color of seeds,

          crouched on the hill. Ready to freeze,

hide, or beat the ground and run. Then the shotgun slam

          of the farm house door. Blink, the rabbit was gone,

just a rustle and weave, clanging lilies-of-the-valley and weeds.

Sherine Elise Gilmour graduated with an M.F.A. in Poetry from New York University. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming from Green Mountains Review, Many Mountains Moving, Oxford University Press, River Styx, So To Speak, and other publications.