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Madonna of the Vietnamese Martyrs

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For awhile the pink stone Vietnamese church in my hood had its new Madonna wrapped in cellophane under a birch, and I loved going there and looking at her through the plastic - I found her tall and stern, unlike Madonnas I had seen, and I liked the impromptu way she stood all wrapped up, her beauty encased and unnoticed, with birch leaves and sunshine playing on her white marble. Then one day volunteers unwrapped her, cut the lovely birch down and tore up the grass around the tree. I was unhappy about that, though it was none of my business, but things changed again. The congregation lovingly planted new grass and flowers, and put an enclosed garden in the space, fenced with wrought iron railings and set with half-moon benches. They brought more flowers in pots and in bunches and laid them at her feet. I like that the gate to the fence does not lead to any path - it is as if it has been made only for a gardener to go in and water the flowers. I've been in there now several times, and have set my grocery bag down and sat on a half moon and spent my own quiet time with the flowers and the woman who looks to me so tall and strong and unsentimental, with her serious baby who seems to have inherited her no-nonsense outlook. The whole set-up is a study in unsentimental devotion, somehow paradoxical yet unmistakably direct and hard, with no blurred lines. Today I noticed how big and how bare are her feet, like those of Clementine or Cushie Butterfield, or my own honking great clodhoppers, the ones with which I feel like traipsing the whole world before all flowers or feet or devotion or even unsentimental gazes are trampled under the machine.
donna bebe
donna flora
donna pied
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