Mary, Mother of Mystery

unnamed.jpgWhat blessings will she bring
This rough-hewn Beauty,
Tanned by ages uncountable.
Unceremoniously left on a stoop
In our little village.
She reigns
Among the trash bins
Between the gated door
And vinyl siding.
She is perfectly content
Lugging a pudgy Christos,
Half-smiled because of joy
Half flowered with determination.

She knows we need her.
Our life now harder than
The month before,
More needy a place, but made happy still
By toddlers’ laugher and
Minstrels’ intricate guitar strums.

She waited to appear,
The moment when weariness took over
Just before that final sigh,
The usher, “we can take no more.”

Not all will believe or claim to believe
She can change our fate.
Hardened by disappointments
They can’t wash sorrow from their hands.

Yet even disbelievers
Whistle a note or two
Hoping she will hum their tune back
Or transpose it into a sun-time lullaby
Or mid-day chant that expels
Bad dreams.

Are there God’s givings in her mysterious way,
Appearing like at Fatima, Guadalupe, or Lourdes?
Will she be there tomorrow
Patinated, an unchanging
Smile, brightened by every silent
Prayer, a hopeful wish to Mary
That passes by.


Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia
April 27, 2020



A Poem in Two Parts

Photo by John Richards

Photo by John Richards


The ghost in the closet
Was patient.
He had learned from his
Ancestors.  Bohemian-like today,
Dressed in holiday finery: spats, cravat
And beret, he waited.

He gathered ungrounded concerns round his chair.
Sat preening each,  plucking
To  a sharp point, calmly, every jibe manicured.
No reason to press his case too soon.

His victim’s frame of mind,
The strongest tool he had
kept in wait.
He cleaned his nails,
Glossed his teeth, Brylcreemed his hair,
Till the whirlwind of fear
Spun off sparks of panic
Penetrating the door.

Fingering his
Antique watch, it’s dial and fob,
Elegant filigree,
Clicking open and shut, again and again
Exchanging one echo of fear for another,
Guarantee — no drug or palliative would dispel
The Angst of uncertainty, of unknowing,

He took a brief nap, content he’d done his job.

Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia
June, 2015


Awaking, he stretched.
The nap was good
Filled with gothic banshees,
Most monstrous creatures,
Devils of all degrees and dimensions,
And his own expanded ego
Playing out in an unparalleled operatic form.

The gentle tapping on the door
Meant nothing to him.
Someone destined to run
When he ceremonially inched it open,
The more fearful than a splashy exit.

There had always been a slither in his manner
Snakelike-silences became him.
Oh, he loved his victims’
Inner gasp, their search for air,
Finding none, forcing them deeper into fear.

Like the bite of a troublesome bug
Anxiety convinced himself
He had won.
Proceeding without proof,
He made his signature sound
Few could make.
Saliva spewing over canines,
Disgusting to say the least
He was ready for battle.

But what kind of foe was this,
Curly-haired, chipmunk-cheeked
Rouged and cherry-lipped
She stood her ground
Her balance undisturbed.

Behind her gathered a family,
Obviously hers,
To reinforce
Steadfast intent.

One by one they made
Their declarations.

“It’s time to go Joe,”
Dad issued with military exactitude.

“Ride on, you old coot”
Said the Family’s Heir,
Bike spanner, in hand, at the ready.

Smooth as silk in style and carriage,
”it’s time you disappeared
You phony mirage” declared
The Darling Daughter.

Finally, the unsinkable Matriarch
With all the steely charm
only she could master, asserted,
“Out now, and ne’er darken our closet again.

Like a bat in an over-worn belfry,
Head hung bowed in defeat,
Anxiety had no recourse.
He fingered his cravat, spit on his spat,
And angled his beret.
Shrinking more with every noiseless
He made his way, out the closet,
Cross the room
To the window.
Over the sill
He was hit by fresh, wholesome breezes
Then leagues of exotic
Birds twittering, announced Anxiety’s

No match for this stronghold,


He knew he could never come again.

Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia
April, 2020


GettyImages-577949148.jpgin short supply
we search day and evening
through the gemstones then the
rusty remnants of our lives
in hopes of finding
fingerprints of the world
that was
the world we loved
we cry
we sob
we weep
we plead
we start again
we ask the artist
take on
the task
the mission
the hard-won act
transform only as you can
to bring us comfort in
the ordinary
the left-behind
the well-washed
defining clarity
with a sable brush
a palette rich
in fondness for
our place
we thank you
in your dance
the endless pavane
into eternal grace

Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia
April, 2020