Monument

Mary Dyer memorial in Philadelphia, Pa. Photo by Gail Whiffen.

Mary Dyer memorial, Earlham College

Your eyes are cells of shadow.
Your hands are empty.
Your lips are not about to speak. 

Yet here you are visible in a body.
If I ever seem to picture you, I realize
it’s this bronze face I’m seeing.

Imagine, Mary, after four centuries
you’re seated in the heart of Boston
and places you don’t know— 

Philadelphia and Richmond, Indiana,
where I’m standing out in chilly
early sunlight, mist rising from the grass,

nobody else around. It feels right
to come a pilgrim to you here
in a Midwest neither of us belongs to,

yet where I live and remember you,
gathering what I know of exile.
A Quaker woman sculpted you

and chose another to be your model;
you’d like that, if not to find yourself
an icon on a chiseled block.

Religious Liberty: the bell-phrase clangs.
You died for it, roughly, and more
most of us have lost words for, 

or else are seeking better ones.
Those passages that mark your eyes.
That blind gaze, where you observe

the wheeling of a hidden universe;
capped head tilted, shoulders square,
hands nested gently in your lap. 

Not wife, not mother, not sentimental saint
imploring heaven; no sword,
no starry crown. Just you, sitting quietly,

indifferently calling us to presence,
a burning that seems to love us.
Your face so still it stills us, listening

to the sermon you preach in silence:
how to follow, to witness, to resist,
to walk the one road all the long way in.

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