Our Lady of Woe


She follows the road ways

patiently waiting until the crowds fade,

pulsing red lights vanish,

flares become dead, grey slugs.

Her face is always in

the crowd in the pictures.

On the blacktop,

glittering pieces of crushed windscreen,

blue white rectangles before

sea has smoothed coke off edges.

She places a few pieces in

a worn leather bag.

The choice ones have blood.


People of the road will tell

that she is deadly fair

of form and face same

as when they first pulled

Airstreams instead of RVs.

Or an old woman

in the same cloths, with

the same pouch of shards

which never gets larger,

never gets full.


Furtive at rest stops,

a creature of blue signs.

The woman knows the distance

between toilets, not cities.

For a cup of time

she will tell the place

where a few more pieces

may be gathered.

Disappearing into a Winnebago,

a mobile-home anyway,

she vanishes into

nothing at all.


Other creatures know

her name; other creatures that hold

carnival at the swollen knuckles

in the road.  They will not tell

it, only smile as she bends

to pick up the bright

little fragments from the shoulder.

Do not stop late at the rest

stop when it is empty.

You might find the hanging

man in the stalls.

It wasn’t her hand,

but she watched.


That tender face of age

or youth, trucker and biker know.

They don’t know her name,

and guess at it over coffee

or whiskey by the fire.

On the road, they have seen

the search for her glass.

When she is old they fear

her, young they desire her.

When they are old,

no more rest stops:

wise of accidents,

wise of cafes.

They hope to mingle with blue

someday, in her brown bag.


first published in Living With a Stranger: self portrait, 1993.

About johnsmithiiimxiii

John Smith, IIMXIII is the avatar of an award winning poet, artist, etc. who still lives in the Palouse country of the Pacific NW. He has not received much notice with his prose . . . but as his avatar, I hope that he keeps plugging along.

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