At the base of the Taos mountains,

a fragmented tree, victim

of a lightning strike. As I pass,

I avert my gaze as if confronted by

something intimate in the paleness

of the exposed wood. A friend’s

son who was struck by lightning

later took his life. I wonder how

much that act hinged on burdens

I knew nothing about—a complex landscape

forged from disappointment and pain—

how much was due to the lightning strike’s

trauma, the exit wound like a stigmata.

Once, I longed for a life of extraordinary

goodness—hoped to radiate faith

like a five-hour sunburn, to heal others

with a touch. Now, I’m satisfied

with wisps of grace: letting cars merge

into thick traffic in front of me,

tipping the barista who mixes my complicated

drinks. But that earlier desire resurged

the day I drove to Chimayo after hearing

of a sanctuary deemed the American Lourdes,

where abandoned crutches lined the walls

like car parts in an old-fashioned garage.

The room was small and stifling;

rows of candles flickered above

a plate-sized pit filled with adobe-colored dirt

that I knew I could not eat

even if it meant a miracle. In my life,

desire rarely trumps fear.

Ten miles down the road, I stopped

at a convenience store where I bought

twin chocolate cupcakes with white icing

scrolls like a string of cursive e‘s.

I ate them with the faith of a child.

Lavonne J. Adams

Lavonne J. Adams has received both the Persephone Poetry Prize and the Randall Jarrell/Harperprints Chapbook Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Southern Poetry Review, Connecticut Review, Briar Cliff Review, and Missouri Review. She teaches poetry at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.