Mary [modern remix]

Mary (the modern remix)

by Todd Johnson

No vacancy -blinks- neon  
(no room, no room) 
no reservations, no room,  
even for pregnant girls 
great with child, from out of town. 
Sweet Joe rushes about  
cursing the Census Bureau 
and its old abacus methods of counting. 
Best Western, Hotel 6, Holiday Inn 
all full to overflowing, no coat  
closets, laundry rooms or cubby holes  
to crawl into tonight. 
We explore the unseen  
boundaries of plight. 
My stomach is a sphere,  
a growing world 
about to hatch  
into a pained universe 
eclipsed in Orion’s shadow.

The pickup slouches  
into the dust it collected, 
the tires groan  
like beaten hoofs 
into the earth. 
Sitting mimics standing  
in discomfort, I squirm 
wondering if the next rejection 
offers a bathroom at least. 
A good man is hard to find, 
much less, a righteous concierge 
or night audit clerk. 
Options shrivel and shrink as city  
blocks blur beneath us.  
Sidewalk mirages take shape 
in mattress, pillow, sheet,  
but fade upon inspection, 
cans and cardboard, lotto tickets.

Pain and labor, labor in pain 
a lone bulb illuminates  
the concrete slabs  
of our Self-Storage unit, 
a humble accommodation. 
Embarrassment, the midwife,  
ushers in this little king 
of boxes and furniture,  
the miscellaneous 
items of displacement, like us.

With each push I cry out,  
my voice an echoing  
chorus on aluminum siding. 
my stubbled Love, he sweats  
in darkness no longer fearful  
of angels, gods, or HMO’s, 
but quivers still  
at the hour of arrival.

In the baby squawls,  
we look for miracles 
and jump at nondescript whispers.  
Cherubim or seraphims 
should nanny him now 
in rush of wing, flutter of eye, 
I think they’ll wink it all away 
but feel their holy hold,  
as nothing divine pauses  
with comments or courtesy 
as we grasp the battered diaper bags 
of doubt, tuck it in close  
to chest and stroke 
like the wounded pedigree  
of teen surrogates from Yakima.

My breath is caught up 
like plastic shrapnel 
hovering in the wind 
as the curious arrive 
from 7-11, Circle K, Dunkin Donuts 
the shepherds of sweets, 
coffee pots, and gasoline 
–nomads of night. 
Their eyes elliptic ask questions  
a mouth can’t scrawl, 
they believed enough to come,  
but question the fragile  
truth cradled on a newspaper 
bin of wicker, wrapped in sweatshirts.

What next? I ponder, floating  
safe in a warm embryo of solitude. 
Scientologists from the East 
bearing Tom Cruise autographs 
and crates of fruitcake? 
 
Maybe we’ll just go, Joe,  
hop a train 
down to Frisco, share a story  
and spare change with hobos. 
Maybe we’ll take the boy 
and run, fleeing like Hermes 
winged, from politicians 
dieting on their own rhetoric 
ready to brand us Unfit parents. 
Maybe we’ll find a way 
to make everything work 
to raise a son 
and pave a better road 
pot-hole free 
for a chosen one to trod on.

But as I see his tiny hand 
outstretched (and flailing) 
visions unfurl like confetti 
the dream unwinds as 
hammers fall with each flake 
of colored paper 
I am pierced again and again 
through and through 
as metal parts flesh 
(oh, favored one) 
and I am named 
in that moment, 
like his tender voice, 
not yet heard, 
calling out 
now and forever 
crying, “Mother.”