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This poem is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

Martha and Mary John Muckle

Whenever you meet two girls one of them will believe
and one will be sceptical; the name of the credulous girl
is always Mary; the sceptical one will be called Martha
running your barcodes over her reader with half an eye
on the queue, on some undecided loiterer at the back
who might, at last moment, opt for her dreamy-eyed sister.

Martha has a new haircut, a cap of darkness streaked
with purple highlights. Under it she has a face like heaven,
a black cup tipped to drink all the light in a supermarket
and reflect it, reflecting bad things back where they come
from an awkward customer who thinks of nothing; she
gets up, cools off, slams the empty baskets on a stack.

Mary is still washing the Lord's feet, raptly listening
to a new parable suggested to him by her act of devotion.
Martha thinks that a stone rolled over Lazarus's tomb
would be better left in place. He is dead, already rotting.

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