It's so quiet among the carved saints,
the votives giving out, one by one, the old
woman scraping wax and spent wicks.
Grief lights them again. Photographs
of the dead are tucked into the corners
of framed Christs, dogtags slung
from a punched-tin cross--JAIME ESCALERO,
And CATHOLIC. Even the tourists are hushed
by so much evidence of faith.
In the room behind the altar
a small hole holds the dirt
said to heal. The blind
come here, and the broken-hearted.
They squat down
to take the earth
in their hands and let it run through.
the old woman slips new candles
into their sheaths
and the random light from cameras
is like souls entering
or abandoning the world, each with the same brightness.
Kim Addonizio, from Word Art, Press of the Palace of the Governors, 2004.
Santuario de Chimayo woodcut by Willard Clark.