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Hannah Faith Notess


The Virgin in the City

If she were out of work, she'd ride the bus
all day, just knitting, sitting in the dark
knuckle between bus halves, lulled by accordion
folds. She likes the smell of worn-out men—
stale smoke, damp boots, and salt—it makes her feel
useful, wanted. But she must be about her work.
So she begins: she walks library stacks,
and where her fingers trail frayed spines,
worn threads re-weave themselves.
Under her footprints, marble floors regain
their gleam. She hovers in the reading room,
smelling the sour breath of strangers, for
whatever she smells turns holy to her nose.
She sounds out syllables with jittery students,
turns pages for the tired, and when they nod,
she blesses their exhausted sleep. Outdoors,
she opens empty freight containers, carries
wood to trash-can fires, draws water
from the wind and air, and pricks
the snowed-in city's sickened heart, an egg
she broods over, warming it at her breast.
And just before dawn, she alights
in the museum lobby, trips the neon
switch to glow in its warm buzz of sin.
The angel is waiting. The child has slept
but must be fed. So, trailing her shawl behind her,
she walks the labyrinth home.

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