Our Lady of the Flood

               Louisiana, August 2016

Lady, is that you, with a citronella halo,
ghosting the mud-milk waters
with a laundry basket of kittens in one arm?
You are no mythic Saint Medard, sheltered
from rain beneath an eagle’s wing,
but a hands-on angel of the earthly kind—
sweaty, with a burden of buckets and bleach,
surefooted through labyrinths of debris.
You take meals in church parking lots,
thankful for whatever is served.
Some saints are untouchable behind glass,
but you ride in open boats
with mildew on the hem of your gown,
a calm commander of the Cajun Navy’s fleet.
Your devotees worship outside
in a circle of ruined pews,
no incense but bug spray, their voices
a capella because the music of the drowned piano
is too sad to sing to. They remain faithful
because you are the one constant,
honored in front gardens and kitchen shrines.
You with your shrimp boots and rubber gloves—
without flinching you lead and they follow,
walking on water to the safety of each other.

Copyright © 2017 Alison Pelegrin. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2017.