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.