The first blood was not     the blood of Crucifixion
but a sweet iron smell     dark clots and amniotic fluid
the Holy water of every birth—

Sweet Maria panted among the white lambs
the umbilicus cut between flesh and spirit
sealing the One irreparably from the Other—
Later, in His Wisdom, He would ask—
What had He to do with her?

Annunciation falls over Good Friday
as the shadow of the barren Tree
has always fallen across the manger—

We read how clubs and machetes
mow down fields ripened with mothers—
(O, the first time I was sorry
he says, convicted, from inside the prison:
The woman in the church was a mama     and the baby
so small    in her small arms—
But what could I do? My arms, see them,
strong from sowing and reaping and there was
such dark work to be done—

In another place iron men swoop down upon the children
return them to dust and ashes in the crucible of righteousness
dash their small bones against the stones—
Raze it, raze it     the lit tower upright
against the stars     the bodies falling like stars
and beyond the blue sky turned black with smoke
the curved and silent cosmic dark—

For every birth there is a death but not
for this death a birth—

Yet still blessed Maria knelt before the bright Angel
blank-space-longdoves flew from his mouth
blank-space-shortblessed       blessed birth       joyeux noel—
and still we hold our children against our breasts
pray the cup will pass     will spare them
from the Horsemen thundering through our dreams—

Telling the beads, we pray
Holy Maria, full of grace, be with us now
and in the hour of our death

Be with us in the fields of death in Rwanda
where the children fall before the scythe
like unripe grain—
in dark rooms in Baghdad
in Darfur    in Jerusalem    in America
in the dark places of our hearts
where there is no god but Ruin—
and yet still we kneel offering up our bodies
to bear children into
the bright       explosive        hopeless
annunciation of Love—

Wanda Fries earned a master of fine arts in fiction from Bennington College and received an Al Smith Fellowship for fiction from the Kentucky Arts Council. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including New Growth: Recent Kentucky Writings and Sojourners.

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