A smudgy, smoky blonde, she stands alone
Before the alabaster statuette,
Her gaze filled Pre-Raphaelite regret,
Her fleshy body still as holy stone.
Around her, tourists wander, children chatter,
All manner of salvation is on offer;
Unwanted currency clinks in the coffer
As guides rehearse their reverential patter.
And Mary stares with eyes that cannot weep
At this still hopeful hooker, arms outspread
To welcome all the words that can’t be said;
And somewhere, very high or very deep,
Some far-off place where even stones still bleed,
An angel screams eternities of need.
By Jonathan Steffen
First published in Exposure, Falcon Editions 2012
Photograph: St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, by Jo Wilson