Outside Chimayo, sagebrush
is a rough mirror for sky, silver-green
and endless in late-autumn light.
When I breathe through my mouth
I taste New Mexico on my tongue:
hint of spice, slight citronella flavor.
In town the santuario still stands
where it has for two centuries,
its dim reverence drawing us inside
where an old man swears on his mother
that these musty walls can cure you.
Walking through, I deliberate.
Should I throw myself down, press
my crippled heart against this sacred floor,
await my miracle?
Afterward we drive the foothills
of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in silence.
I think about the blood of Christ and how
your eyes match sagebrush and sky.
Your mouth holds the same silence
as these mountains.
I sit without speaking, tasting the air,
wondering if that holy floor
could have healed me.
Ricki Mandeville grew up in Oklahoma and now lives not far from the ocean in Huntington Beach, California. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals. She is also the author of A Thin Strand of Lights (Moon Tide Press 2006) in which this poem appeared in a different form.