Leaving the Ceremony

by James Doyle

I walked farther down the streets
than I meant to go. It was too late
at night to roam that neighborhood.

From the only lit windows, a girl,
fourteen or fifteen, looked out
at me, held up a pair of scissors.

She was wearing a halter top.
She pointed the tip of the scissors
at one nipple, then the other.

She raised the blades above her head
and flexed them slowly, cutting
the humid air into streamers

that flowed down her arm and over
her shoulder to a bare midriff
framed by the sill of the window.

She lifted her other hand to show me.
There was a circle of red on the palm.
I thought of blood vows, of steeped

Wine, of the stigmata. The only way
she could satisfy me further
would be to switch off the room’s light

and let the darkness imprint me.
Instead, she curled back the edge
of her skin with scissors’ tip

as if she were opening a manual
of prayer to that day’s worship.
I could only attend to what was there,

a eulogy for the imagination that folds
itself into prime little patches of ritual.
I had to either marry her or leave.

I turned and went back up the streets
to where I was meeting my wife
and everyone else after the services.

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