Adam Tavel

Saying the Rosary

We knelt to lisp our beads by candlelight
and stare into the shadow-tongues that licked
the Virgin’s chipped nativity. She fell for years
because we grandkids thumped the TV set.
Advent. Brown wreaths. Unless someone was sick
we prayed the manger Christ awake each night
to shiver at her breast while worn kings bent
to pour their griefs into a newborn’s ears.
We chanted hail so long it would become
a spell against ourselves, our urge to stand
and stretch beneath a window where the moon
glowed like a eucharist. The soreness bloomed
inside our stiffened backs. Short wicks grew wan.
We weren’t the first to lie and call it love.

Adam Tavel is the author of five books of poetry, including two new collections: Green Regalia (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2022) and Sum Ledger (Measure Press, 2022). His recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in North American Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Copper Nickel, and Western Humanities Review, among others. You can find him online at