By Celeste Schantz
Visiting a gallery of religious art
I can no longer relate to these dusty
framed virgins and whores. Your Madonnas
are too beautiful; poor, pale, mute dolls
propped against empty cerulean skies.
I want to see some new Madonnas. Of the scars,
of the streets. Our Lady of Goodwill, hunched
at the donated clothes bin. Show me
Madonnas of the long dark night. Our Lady
of Trafficked Saints, protector of school girls
stolen on the cruel road to Damascus.
Render me defenders of girls shot in the head
for being girls. Show me the Malala Madonnas.
Take the apple from Eve’s hand. She never
asked for that prop in the first place, obvious
as a smoking gun thrust into a pedestrian’s hand
as the robber runs away. Feel free
to put that snake away, too. Eve lives with you
amidst earth’s clatter, sewage, bullets.
Eve is Sarajevo, Sudan, Syria, South Central L.A.
and Appalachia. I could show you
the bleak chiascuro of a sister trudging home
from her second job in night’s dull neon; I’d
shade asymmetry and contrast in her unequal pay.
Color it in napalm, cinder, cement. I’d blend
warm color into her skin…give her some sturdy hips.
Ah, men, you should have shown them as real
women. For this hour, this unjust afternoon,
wags on. Eve and Mary, step down
from that cracked canvas. The distant sun
is lowering behind the trees. Go put on something
bright, happy and yellow. It is time, high time
for these weary sentences to be done.
Celeste Schantz’s work appears in Stone Canoe, One Throne Magazine, Mud Season Review and others. She recently studied in a workshop with the author Kim Addonizio, has studied with the author Marge Piercy, and was a finalist in a worldwide competition co-sponsored by Poetry International, Rotterdam and The Poetry Project, Ireland. She edits The Thornfield Review, which celebrates women authors whose work has often been disenfranchised by the great white male western academic canon. She lives in Upstate New York, with her son Evan, and is currently working on her first book of poetry.
Photo credit: Mother of Syrian Martyr by Lilian Wagdy via a Creative Commons license.