To the Patron Saint of Wayward Daughters

Remember, Sister, how the ocean was her first love—
a tattered hemline skirting sand, the hard shove
of the moon? Hers was a baptism of salt and sinew

and undertow. That’s when we’d discovered she floats,
unspooling me at the edge where I’d waved her back,
mother-cord looped around her slippery ankle. I am still

without a net, you see. Mercy, but it took me some time
to gather a rosary of baby teeth from beneath pillows,
humid with the small breath of dreams. Did I mention

how, years later, she surfaces from time to time like a
Hallelujah; her toenails painted in abalone or the asphalt
pitch of balding treads. In her rear view mirror, one eye

precisely inked in velvet; the other, a compass
flailing. Those alms, she admonishes, speak of nothing
but wind. Or was that you, Sister? Wasn’t that you?

Tell me, can you spot her from your God-perch,
your vast heart rolled out— a sticky field of benedictions,
your harp stung fingers shuffling the stems to croon

a litany. What I’d meant to confess is if I’d had
an anecdote for the world and its random cruelties,
I would have spooned it into her mouth like angel

food cake, like armor. Little girl with her plastic purse
and dandelion sun, ghosted into a drift of porous stars.
Her dimpled cheek, a match strike. Throb is a cadence,

don’t you think? Even the dusty moths scorch their way
toward machined light as if wings were another language
meant to be cindered— all the better to divest her

secrets. O Sister, obtain for me the grace to be tender
when combing out the clouds tangled in her hair, patient
while unpuzzling the graffiti still wet beside the gate

rusted wide. She’s right; inertia hurts. I’ll search for you
both in the incense of wind chimes. At your altar, please
accept this fistful of kite streamers. They’re all I’ve got.

Praise song for the fine arc of yearning. Amen to gravity.
To those civilized trails of breadcrumbs in a fairytale
wood. To the stubborn foothold of hunger.

Laura Sobbott Ross

About the poet: Laura Sobbott Ross has worked as a teacher and a writing coach for Lake County Schools and was named as Lake County’s first poet laureate. Her poetry appears in many journals, including Blackbird, Florida Review, and 32 Poems. She was a finalist for the Art & Letters Poetry Prize and won the Southern Humanities Auburn Witness Poetry Prize. Her poetry chapbooks are A Tiny Hunger and My Mississippi. A third book, The Graffiti of Pompeii, was released in December 2018.