To Julian of Norwich
Renee Emerson

To Julian of Norwich

I suppose it begins with the wish
            for a moment
alone; then ash
            across a stone floor. You are
entombed with Christ, shut up
            in a room with two
windows like eyes set
            to the past and future,
like mouths open to receive
            mass, forgive the unseen
sins of strangers.

Here we paint rooms white
            before we leave them. Outside
one window, a priest; outside
            the other, a young woman,
wearing the footpath to dirt. Today
            she carries pears, daisies, certain
testimonies. Tomorrow, she carries her mother.

Isn’t this what you prayed for? To burn
            with visions, to suffer like God.
Specter, voice from the living grave,
            are you more pure there
than the maid on the footpath, begging
            penance, shut within
the anchorage
            of an earthly body?

Renee Emerson

is a homeschooling mom of seven and the author of Church Ladies (forthcoming from Fernwood Press, 2022); Threshing Floor (Jacar Press, 2016); and Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014). Her poetry has been published in Windhover, Poetry South, and other journals. She adjunct teaches online for Indiana Wesleyan University and blogs about poetry, grief, and motherhood at