Intro from the author: Holy Incarnation Church was open at all hours, and going there was an aesthetic as well as a religious experience. The Church was always more than nuns and priests, more than the congregation. The rites of the church connected me to something very ancient, almost timeless. Religious ritual is incipient drama, and that was part of its attraction, too. Yet it was also something more than all of these things…..


At fourteen I walk to the church
in early autumn dusk. In the dim hush
behind double doors my hand dips
into holy water, cool, at the little font.
The boards creak under wine-colored
carpet. I pull the padded kneeler down.

Tall, stained glass windows darken now
with evening: angels, heavy-winged; men,
young or bearded, tilt backwards
in surprise or fear. Maidens' and matrons'
faces stir with yearning or grief.
Or Stations of the Cross:
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus;
Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother;
the weeping women of Jerusalem.

Rows of votive candles flicker;
shadows dance. Mary in her niche
(Lovely Lady dressed in blue, teach us
how to pray) turns her face
heavenward: see no evil, hear no evil,
the snake wriggling beneath her feet.
Joseph, a holy child in one arm, gazes
into oblivion. Looming behind them, Christ
high on his cross, head bloody and bowed.

Starched altar cloths
a stunning white, unwrinkled, pure.
The privacy exquisite, sacred,
so unlike the house I walked away from.
Everything ordered and beautiful,
even anguish.

About the Author

Sandy Vrana

Sandy Vrana grew up in western Pennsylvania where her father was a coal miner and her mother a housewife. She started graduate school at forty when her daughter finished high school, and in 1995 she received a PhD in Literature and Cultural Criticism from Indiana University of PA. She belonged to Barbour County Writers in WV from 1992 until her 2015 retirement from Alderson Broaddus University, where she was a Professor of Literature and Writing.