She’s made from nothing: dust, prayer,

apple skins, and she asks to be buried

in the desert.

Our lady’s clothes are stiff with sand,

so she lets me remove them for cleaning,

one by one. Meanwhile, we talk.

Her necklace is first, pearls

turned brown from the wind. I fiddle with the clasp

until it breaks, pretend 

not to feel her skin on mine

cold like cream.

She says, I shouldn’t be saying this,

and her voice trails off like a shallow stream.

I rub the beads with my thumb until 

they shine, and then a little more,

and try not to look her in the eyes.

I say, what?

What she tells me goes missing

in the drone of a passing truck,

one headlight dim like a bad eye.

I ask her to repeat herself

and take off her shoes, soft and close-toed.

She says, it’s a sin of mine, jealousy,

but they buried everything holy

with him.

(Christ is some yards down the road,

the last of the sand

being pulled over his cruciform

like a woolen sheet.)

I nod — a nonbeliever,

or something like it, it is not

my place. Our four hands

unbutton her blue dress, slowly. 

We pull it off in silence,

and I push it into the basin

in, out, in again

until the clear water is speckled with earth

like a sky flecked with dying stars. I do not ask her

what heaven is like. I take her socks, 

and hang them to dry. I do not ask

why we are here, in the land 

of in-betweens, nor how the Father

has been, nor the sun, whose place has been taken

by a hollow and inauspicious crescent.

I do not ask

why she herself is so fragile, 

so vulnerable, why she doesn’t bid me

to wash her land-caked hair,

why I am here at all.

Whether it would be so unholy

to kiss her quiet lips, or to drive away

in a blind and broken-down car.

Instead, we let the dry air do as it will.

Her clothes, fluttering on the line,

bloom from dark to light,

and we do not exchange a word

as I dress her again.

When I have finished, 

she says, Bless you. She means,

Thank you. I do not say,

I love you.

She lies down in her Sunday best,

and I begin to push sand

until she is gone from the Earth again.