I’d wandered the city like St. Mary of Egypt

I’d wandered the city like St. Mary of Egypt
by John Fry

wandered the desert searching for holiness

hollowed in rock     cleft evidence of sand’s nonstop
arguing with wind     God’s absent
present footprints     hair my only clothing
like the Magdalene of legend 

too short for a shirt     I’ve been growing mine out
because I’m sick of having a bird for a heart
a parking meter     an espresso machine     a solar panel
anything instead of a one-winged fledgling 

small     as things feathered often are     wanting
to walk away from men for good     like any desert-seeking
sinner     I’d wanted one last pair of larger hands
the usual places     the usual suspects     cruising bookshelves 

for a man to kiss     how a man’s hands look matter less than
what his hands hold     Proust (too delicate)
Rilke (too depressed)     this one had a volume of O’Hara’s
so I asked if he’d like to have a coke with me 

are you a poet or something I said     a something
but definitely not a poet     why’re you talking to me
I wanted to be sure to reach you     my harbor needs a master
[get it]     are you coming onto me already     [he definitely didn’t]

I said what’s without rarely resembles what’s written
if appearances are what we’re talking about
well what are we     talking about I mean
how a mirror’s true     silver     sometimes lies

as does whatever hangs upside down     & blued behind an iris
[blank]     is that a mala around your wrist     as if he expected
a typical hipster quip     things are as they are     suffering etc
had clearly missed the crucifix pressed to my palm 

Catholic or something     something like that
Protestant mind     Catholic heart     or vice versa
well that’s poetic he said     instead I heard pathetic
pray a lot then     if thought were prayer     I don’t even know

what that means     metaphor     glint gone from his eyes
what I said earlier     those O’Hara lines from “To the Harbormaster”
oh I thought you were being dirty     [I was]     metaphors are cool
nothing’s on top for very long     & that shine was back

come here often     yes     [& no]     so are you looking to
yes I     fingering the beads his had carefully unwound 
want a better rosary to pray with     who’s being metaphorical now
well you called yourself a pilgrim     & isn’t every angel terrifying

did you really just say that
you’re kinda funny
by the way yes
yes what 

when you’re on your knees 


Originally from South Texas, John Fry is the author of With the Dogstar as my Witness (Orison Books, 2018), which was a finalist for the Orison Poetry Prize, the Dorset Prize, and the Nightboat Poetry Prize. His poems and lyric essays have appeared or are forthcoming in West Branch, Colorado Review, Blackbird, Waxwing, and Denver Quarterly, among others, and the anthologies Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute, 2016) and New Border Voices: An Anthology (Texas A&M UP, 2014). A graduate of Texas State University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, he’s currently a poetry editor for Newfound Journal and a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Texas at Austin, where he’s writing a dissertation on medieval English poetry and is an Assistant Program Coordinator in the University Writing Center. He lives in the Texas Hill Country.