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.