Thus begins the feast of Ēostre: in glorious mud,
whose root is mudde meaning mother
for the Goddess who bore the world
in water and earth. The snow has melted,
and left the ground sopping, an afterbirth.
Robins and hares hopping through plashes
leave their tracks behind, as does the vixen
who minds not at all the spattered paws
of the pups who follow her to the den.
Mud glossy as coffee beans that nourishes
the land again for this year’s growth:
already, crocuses and daffodils, dwarf iris
and hellebore pop up in gardens or along paths
where the mud parts to let them through.
Soon will sprout the chickweed and clover,
a higgedly-piggedly of green that will overcome
brown and wet, to spread like honey. But for now,
this mud is good, this mother is so good.
She finds the rabbit screaming
in a trap someone had laid, its leg snapped
and bleeding, the iron tearing
through brown fur and sinew like a mouth.
She cannot extricate the rabbit here,
not and treat the wound. Bracing
the damnable trap so it doesn’t pull further
on the leg, she carries the creature carefully
as she can from the woods into her home.
Once inside, the rabbit whimpers
and trembles while she pries apart the clamp,
murmurs be well be well be well
soft as leaves. Free, it hobbles a few steps
then stills, watchful. There’s no time.
She sets to work, grabbing strips of linen,
soap, and water. Then she mashes together
in her mortar garlic and comfrey to heal wounds,
chamomile to reduce pain, rose for calm,
yarrow and witch hazel to stem the blood.
This she mixes with warm butter
and a little flour into a paste. She trucks
the lot beside the rabbit, and, as if sensing
she’ll do no more harm, it accepts
her gentle bathing, the press of the poultice
against its leg, the bandage that she ties.
She rests both hands lightly on its back, whispers
The sting is deep and the ache severe
What you’ve endured no longer fear
Hasten now: your strength appear
Let healing come from far and near
Sleep, little one, she croons, as the rose
begins to take effect and the rabbit closes
its eyes. There is much yet to do to nurse
this guest that’s come to stay:
a bed to make, more herbs to mix, a litany to pray.
on the wind tonight a strange
lavender and stone moss and musk
nothing of the salty Gulf intrudes
and the moon is like a dull potato
that rolls in and out of linen-bag clouds
you are too weary again my love
but not from the sea the floorboards creak
as you stagger to your bedchamber
a cloak of mist and belt of guilt pulled
tightly about your shoulders and hips
you don’t stop to say goodnight
or peek in on sleeping children
and I know better than to question you
when I bring you dinner of figs and cheese
decanted wine and dates
does not suit your aura as you take the food
and I slip back into the hall
grows like spears of treachery at this place
Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy
Artemisia Gentileschi, ca. 1620s (Private Collection)
Fingers crossed over her knees,
as if to prolong the moment
of her last shattering, breath held,
she leans into rapture like a cat
in wondrous light. Her neck extends,
her hair loosens, the barest swell
of her breast pushes against the swoops
and billows of her white taffeta blouse
gushing off her shoulders. She is decent,
but only just. The peony blush
staining her cheeks and chin, her lips
too-rose but closed, could be holy
delight. The same pink hint
peeps at the top of her frayed bodice.
Perhaps, her heart is burning through.
Or perhaps what’s left of a kiss,
of past pleasures under piety’s guise?
She does not wear a halo yet.
At the Wal-Mart Store in Cut Off, Louisiana
On his slight shoulders, the Spiderman backpack
seems too big, but Junior assures me that this is The One
he wants to take to school next week. He shrugs out of it,
and I pop it in the shopping cart, its red face and white,
blank eyes staring up amid the Cheerios and Capri Suns,
laundry detergent, paper towels, and deli ham.
We choose colors, pencils, erasers, notebooks,
a three-ring binder—though what a first grader needs
with a binder is anyone’s guess—then head over
to Boys to find a Spiderman tee shirt for his first day,
something Daddy promised him but somehow forgot.
I listen to him chatter about being a big boy,
and how his brother has it so easy, always being carried
like a “kangaroo in a pouch” (a.k.a. the Baby Björn),
and how he wishes Daddy would not stay out so late
because he misses Daddy reading him a bedtime story.
Almost by habit, I start to say, “Your father loves you—”
but something in his dear moon face stops me,
a little crinkle in his forehead, as if he steels himself
for that too-familiar expression which always ends
with “he’s just really busy.” I bend down to squash him
in a hug—he squirms at first (“Mommy, please!”),
evasive as his own father when I try embracing him these days,
but my little man relents, plants a tiny kiss on my cheek.
“Let’s find you a Spiderman lunchbox,” I say,
earning a smile from him. What he doesn’t know
about his father’s love can’t hurt him as much as what I do.
JC Reilly is the author of the narrative poetry collection What Magick May Not Alter (Madville Publishing, 2020). She won the Sow's Ear Poetry Prize in 2020 for the forthcoming chapbook Amo e Canto, and she serves as the managing editor of Atlanta Review. Since the pandemic started, she has worn out all of her pajamas. Follow her @aishatonu.