Litany of Our Lady

By Brenda Marie Osbey

our lady of the sidewalks
the pavements and the crumbling brick
the mortar rock and oyster-shell roads
our lady of sorrows and sadnesses
of intolerable agonies tolerated daily
of drifters grifters scrappers and scrapers
our lady of dudes and dicks and pricks
of petty thieves and of whoremongers
of piss-swelled gutters
and dives
and the grimed over windows knotty-haired children peer through;
our lady
our lady of boys shot down in the dark
dying in open lots along lesser used roads leading out of town
of old men beneath interstates
     sitting, standing, walking a block or so away and back;
our lady of lost and found and forgotten
cast-off ditched
of what was and never will be again
of aggrieved and bereft
accused indicted surrendered up to death
of old tar-colored women in plain or checkered housedresses
     telling aloud their rosaries and rosaries
          and rosaries of faith;
our lady of ladies
and of church-ladies-in-waiting
of young girls with hard uncertain breasts
     and promises of school and school
          and more school even than that;

our lady of go-cups and fictionary tours
cigar bars absinthe bars
of coffee houses open all night and churches closed all day
     and wait;
our lady of antiques dealers dealing in saints
     in crosses, weeping cemetery angels, prayer cards
     in praline mammies, cigar shoppe indians
     in dwarf nigger jockeys whose heads have been lopped off
          and stand
          one hand outstretched, one cocked at the hip
          seeming not to be waiting but bargaining dealing
               for the return of their heads
          their heads their perfectly round perfectly lovely
             little nappy nappy heads;

our lady
our lady of tired buildings listing to one side
and brick-between-cypress posts that simply will stand
as houses themselves give way around falling-down stairs
leaving only a something
a memory of a structure
of spanish-tiled roofs and batten shutters
in a swamp
of a city
of ironworks and of plaster
o, lady lady
our lady of anything
at all

All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.