Lisa Dordal

i. Christmas PageantAt twelve, I played Maryin a community Christmas pageant.I saw you at the service, people said.I saw you with your baby,riding your donkey. A real donkey,led by some boy. Older boy.Fourteen at least. I don't rememberhis name or if I even knew itat the time. Just that I couldn't look at him.Couldn't look straight at himwithout blushing and lowering my eyes.Everyone said I made a great Mary.That I did a great job beingthe one God descended upon. No,not descended upon. Entered.That I did a great job being the oneGod entered. And whoafterwards called it holy. ii. Christmas Pageant RevisitedThe boy is important, the visiting poet said.Immensely important. The center of the poem,he said. Her desire for him is the center of the poem,the dramatic center. Her desire for him iswhat this poem is about. This much is clear:She desires him. The girl riding a donkeydesires him, the boy, the dramatic center.You need to build him up more,he continued. Give him a name, good looks,maybe a touch of acne. Help us to see him,to see the real center of this poem.To see into the center; to see inside herdesire. Help us to get inside—inside the blushing and the lowering.Tell us how blue his eyes are, how dark his hair,how straight and perfect hisnose. We need to see him. The centerof her desire. Unless, of course, you are striving(striving!) to create an aura of mystery—an illusion of mystery—like you wouldif you were talking about, say, God. 

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Lisa Dordal holds a Master of Divinity and Master of Fine Arts, both from Vanderbilt University, and currently teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of the Robert Watson Literary Prize and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies including Best New PoetsNinth LetterThe Greensboro ReviewVinyl PoetryCALYXThe Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and The Southern Poetry Anthology. For more information, please visit her website:

"Mosaic of the Dark is a portrait of a young woman emerging from the constrictions of family and cultural expectations into her own authentic self. But these poems do not stop there. Lisa Dordal empathizes with the grouchy cashier at the toy and candy store of her childhood: how can I not/ admire her for her refusal/ to feign contentment; she crouches at the bars of a boy’s prison cell: I hear him breathing, telling him:/ it is a beautiful sound; she wonders if houseflies might be sent by the angels: their thousands and thousands of eyes—make a mosaic of the dark. While this collection is well-rooted in personal experience, the poems branch out with an empathetic and precisely observant heart to give us a glimpse of the mysterious world that threads through us all."
—Ellen Bass

"Lisa Dordal's Mosaic of the Dark is actually a book of light. Dordal means to illuminate the quotidian until it is as luminescent as any spiritual experience: 'I dream of flight. A sun/that can hold a million earths/and a mouth that swallows its fire.' This is the eye of a poet looking to her work for redemption and grace. Mosaic of the Dark is a beautiful book."
—Jericho Brown

"In Lisa Dordal's Mosaic of the Dark, desire transfigures the world we believe we know. The boy at the center of the poem is a stand-in for God. A mother is a place we've left. Two black horses in a cave are manifest, and what cannot be undone is as plain and secret as history itself. Here a bird drags its universe of feathers across the yard, and Dordal is the breath that sends them aloft like prayer."
—Traci Brimhall

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