Out the back of the museum, across the footbridge,
through the native Chumash garden, among the quiet
of live oaks, along the path and up the steps,
and just beyond the sign that says,
No Trespassing: Violators Will Be Prosecuted,
there is a forgotten veranda, covered with leaves
of pittosporum, just beneath an equally forgotten grotto.
And in that grotto, standing on a pedestal
of mortared stone from the creek below,
stands the patient Virgin Mary, robed in white
and hands uplifted, pressed together palm to palm.
Her eyes are closed in adoration,
but you get the feeling she is quite aware
of your presence—you, now, seated on a dusty
ledge among clouds of ivy and wilded roses
at her feet. If someone is going to prosecute you,
she will not be the one to do it. And the Virgin Mary,
through her closed eyes, seems to see not only
your bewildered self, weary and wanting,
but everyone and everything in the canyon below—
the swallowtails in their pavilion,
the tyrannosaurus rex named Sue,
the rambling, silent grizzly bear
in the evening gloom of his display.
She sees each artificial star within the planetarium,
and the man who announces the daily show
on a hidden microphone in the dark.
Through her closed lids the Virgin sees
the woman arranging books in the gift shop,
the children leaping from rock to rock,
the keeper holding a kestrel falcon on its perch
with wounded wing. The Virgin Mary
blesses them all, every one, from her hidden
grotto of ivy and roses, and they do not even know
she is there. And as you rise and as you leave
to place your feet once more secure
on legal grounds, you carry this secret deep
within you, this secret of a mother who watches
through closed eyes, who guards your steps,
who knows your presence on this earth.