#89 At the Santuario de Chimayo by Lisa Chavez

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass.
            –St. Teresa of Avila

Walking along your arroyo, you spoke of spirits you’d seen:
the elegant muerta emerging from the metro, glimpses
of ghosts in a Buenos Aires café.  Weeks later, I brought you

here—place of pilgrimage and power.  Santa Madre Tierra.
Nam po’uare. Tewa.  Blessed Earth.  You pause
before a cottonwood, an ancient sentinel shading

the courtyard, while I thrust open the heavy doors
of the sanctuary.  What I love here is elemental:  holy
water to dip fingers into, the altar candles burning–a chorus

of flame.  I duck my head, enter the room in back, kneel
before that well of earth.  I cup holy dirt in my hands, cross myself
with soil soft and fine as talc. You join me, let it ribbon

across your palms.  Think, you say, of how many hands
have been here before us, now more dead than alive.  It is your gift
to divine them, the lingering dead.  And it is our gift, both of us, to love

what is human.  To feel generations of supplication and need, desperate
prayers rising like the scent of incense on the wind.  This place is haunted
by desire, by all our sorrow and rage.  Yet we find solace, pearls

of grace:  in the soft syllables of a Spanish prayer shouldering
through the quiet, in rough walls thick as the chambers of a heart.
From handhewn pews we follow our visions: you dwell on the dead,

and I soar away on the croak of a raven outside. Stillness
sifts down like sacred dirt.  Then a door grumbles open and we rise,
shrouding ourselves again in these thorny human skins.

Lisa D. Chavez lives in the mountains in New Mexico with her husband and dogs.  She has published two books of poetry:  In an Angry Season and Destruction Bay.


4 thoughts on “#89 At the Santuario de Chimayo by Lisa Chavez

  1. wonderful images to stay with me – things elemental; altar candles, a chorus of flame; prayers rising like the scent of incense on the wind; rough walls thick as the chambers of a heart; soar away on the croak of a raven. thank you!

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