(Poem) The Holiness of Broken Things by Melissa Austin

Meet Mago Contributor, Melissa Austin.

This girl

cried over dead baby birds

found among the branches

of a lightning-struck tree.

She couldn’t see how something broken

could still be holy.

She remembers her shame,

when a man walked in on her and laughed

while she was taking a piss

and her feet couldn’t touch the floor.

Remembers a boy

placing his fingers There,

when she was only five,

and wasn’t afraid.

She counts humiliations like rosary beads.

Touches them with her fingers,

each memory as penance,

each prayer a question.


This girl kept her hands folded.

This girl didn’t keep her mouth shut.


In the hollow of her burning chest she kept:

her confessions, cigarette ash, lost teeth, Whitman, and the book of Romans.

Holy relics, all.


This girl believes in secret

that God is a single mother,

and places it in the hollow.

She is no longer a child,

her body now blossoming like a rose,

like a bruise.

She wonders if she is broken.

The man at the pulpit calls her body a temple

and sweats through a starched shirt.

She shudders,

because a boy visited it once.

Stood at her gates, but didn’t enter,

and she wasn’t afraid.


She thumbs through the books in her chest:

Romans, and now Acts, and now the Corinthians.

The man at the pulpit is smiling.

They read the same books,

but different stories.

He crunches dead baby birds between his plastic teeth,

and spits out the bones.

He will never see the holiness in a broken thing.


This girl knows now,

the entrance to the true temple is,

the front porch, facing in,

her lover’s mouth,

her hollow chest,

the split carcass,

the fallen branches,

the storm,

the lightning,

the waiting, open beak,

the front porch, facing out.


The smiling man sweats liquid starch,

and his shirt is a hard shell,

while this girl treads softly

into the swollen temple of her heart

to light candles against the darkness,

not a single one a question,

because God is a single mother,

with a lot of mouths to feed,

and She needs help.

And this girl has seen the holiness,

not only in the broken,

but in the things still breaking.

Holiness Image

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