I prayed for months to Anthony, the patron
saint of all things lost, to return the lace
mantilla—white-thread netting interwoven
with roses, pearl-like beads—that I'd worn to Mass
each Sunday. I prayed and waited, in a sort
of test. What sort of saint would deny the devout
request of a child? To look grown up, I'd worn
this pretty bit of veil. It wasn't about
vanity. I knew nothing of vanity
at twelve. A few months later, my prayer was answered.
The lost mantilla was sent back, but the rules
had changed by then. The church was letting girls
and women go to Mass with heads uncovered.
It came too late. I thanked St. Anthony.
In a hospital named for him, my mother died
the next year. They found the tumor, interwoven
threads in the grey matter of comprehension.
Too late. Through radiation treatments, I prayed,
through nausea, pleurisy, mother's head uncovered
twice, by surgery, by cell death. White
knit cap to try to hide the scars, scarlet
monk's hood to ward against the chill of winter.
They hid her naked pain from those who could not
bear it. My fingers interlaced the rosary—
beads, pearl-white knuckles. Holy Mary,
mother of God...she died by spring. By God,
I grew up then. And with my first black dress,
I wore the white mantilla to her last Mass.