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La Virgen de la Candelaria

March 5, 2010

by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

I came of age
the day of my first miracle —
light body of vegetable paste
become human
and healing a child
dead through the throat
with her father’s knife.
He will tell anyone who listens
that I draw angels to me
and that I am the mother
of all compassion.

Near my sanctuary pilgrims
dance, thrill to fireworks, sing,
cook, nurse infants, eat, drink and
drink some more, make love and promises,
sell amulets, candles, toys, mango and tortillas,
buy burros, ride the merry-go-round.

They have walked for days
and not slept for nights,
have visited my little well
and come to me caked in my mud
with pleas for my intervention.

Since they entertain me,
I grant it. Those who repent of coming
I turn to stone.

My mud cakes are novelties for the young who are grateful that their parents at least now ride in vans, don’t freeze for the sake of a pasty virgin.

The road is paved to my door and the songs are thin. It was the music and the suffering that brought rain. I can’t do miracles without rain.

Too many are stone, lost to the colors of hope. I took it for granted — fields of fire, dancers in the atrium, the dusty taste of faith, aroma of annual penitence.

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Lisken Van Pelt Dus is a poet, teacher, and martial artist living in western Massachusetts. Her poems can be found in numerous journals, including Conduit, The Comstock Review, and Main Street Rag, and her first poetry collection, Everywhere at Once, was published last year by Pudding House Press.

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  1. Barbara LaMorticella
    March 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    What a rich poem! Such a turn between 1755 and 2001. Well done!

  2. March 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    ohh… interesting work…

  3. March 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Masterful and mysterious. I take this as a progression of one person through lifetimes. A poetic “Orlando”!

    It was the music and the suffering that brought rain. I can’t do miracles without rain.


  4. Patricia Van Pelt
    March 6, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Oh my! You take me right back. I can smell the rain on the dust
    and see you tracing the footsteps of the pilgrims in the chapel
    and coming to the dry present. Heart-rending.

  5. E.M. Lockyer
    March 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    So soothing and at the same time pushing self-examination – The words “I took it for granted…the dusty taste of faith” play over and over.

  6. Lisken
    March 8, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Thank you all. It’s based on the traditions surrounding a small virgin statue in San Juan de los Lagos, near Guadalajara, Mexico. A Mexican I met in 2001 piqued my interest when he told me about the mud cakes and about his parents doing the pilgrimage in a van.

  7. March 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Lovely. I can feel Mexico, In 1986, in a more southern state I stood in a church with no pews, hay on the floors, and colorful statues of the virgin Madonna. Mysterious indeed and you brought it all back.

  1. March 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm
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