Sunday, January 31, 2010

Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25, swap with St. John Bosco)

The Conversion of St. Paul: Caravaggio

With the strength of a boxer swinging wildly,

your plush red fists pummel the sky to purple,

spotted with black clouds and streaks of blue.

The blood pools under the sun’s eye like a pond

that forms only after a storm. You have blinded

the light. We are thrown into darkness as our

one and only hot star, holds a thick red steak

over her eye. After days of nothing but night,

our skin fades to a virginal white. We forget

what the trees look like when they’re not

hunched over, their limbs clutching their

swollen bellies that rumble with hunger.

You must teach us how to survive in this.

Our ache for the light is an insatiable itch.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

St. Hyacintha Mariscotti

If you want Hyacinth to bloom for the

second time, you must cut her. She loves

like a carnivore. Make her feel what it is

like to be chosen second. When she cries,

her tears flow down cheekbones that curve

like a shell, like a mistake in the highway.

She picks up the phone, and a voice, deep

as a ravine on the other end whispers,

“Be dead and rise from death.” After these

calls, her sleep turns to ash. She rubs it over

her lips, breastbone, those smooth white

thighs she thought were so desirable. In the

morning, she will bloom. Scarlet, sapphire,

salmon. There will always be another cut.

Friday, January 29, 2010

St. Gildas the Wise (Welsh historians, bell founders)

Chapel of St. Gildas, Brittany, France

This body has been set adrift without a sail

to keep the wind reigned in, like sleek galloping

horses, their metal shoes clicking along

the glass of the water. How will these hands,

these legs, these lungs like unopened buds

ever reach home? This is the sea, the wide

open blue, the body of salt that keeps us afloat.

Who knew our hearts were so buoyant?

If only I could remember how to float

back to where I came from. I was not born

on a wave, or from the sun rising over

this troubled ocean. I want to know where

the map fades away and how I arrived

without a compass in uncharted waters.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

St. Thomas Aquinas (patron of students and universities)

All that I have written seems like straw to me,

like wandering wisps of his hair on fire

that light up this tunnel we call life. I loved

him as if he were corn husks, as if all I had to

do was peel away threads of something dead

to find what I’ve been looking for all this time.

As we pedal our blue bicycles through this

darkness, the light at the end flickers out of view.

On this trail along the river, we are harvests

of muscle hunched over rusty handlebars.

Moments like this are blisters on my palm

like when I try to hold your hand in the movie theater.

When I say try, I mean to say hold my hand open

until you notice and take it softly in your own.


this poem's first line was written by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

St. Angela Merici (patron of sick people, the handicapped, loss of parents)

with eyes the same glassy blue

as the sea, you were struck

blind on this island

you imagine the swallows

with their boomerang wings

always flying towards home

you sink into the sand

and find your balance

with your hand looped

around the trunk of

one tall palm

a hand you do not recognize

brings a sweet date to your mouth

sugar, in the muted light of

these new eyes, glows

like a heart, like teeth

in the darkness.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

St. Timothy & Titus (patrons of stomach disorders)

stop drinking only water

those things fluttering around

in your stomach can swim

have a little wine for the sake

of things to come, for those aches

that wake you mid-dream

with hands clutched to your side

trying to grasp what could possibly

be in there but organs

illuminating the dark

singing out in sleep, radiating

like the pavement in summer

always hot to the touch.


“Stop drinking only water, but have a little wine

for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

(1 Timothy 5:23)

Monday, January 25, 2010

St. John Bosco (patron of illusionists, stage magicians, editors, publishers, schoolchildren, young people)

NOTE: I accidentally switched St. John Bosco's feast day with the Conversion of St. Paul, which I will write up and publish on the 31st. Just pretend I didn't do that. Ok? Ok.


you are a loose cannon

they say, a wheeler-dealer

who reaches into unsuspecting

pockets of grandmothers

in floral headscarves

covered in those same roses

you say you dream about nightly

the thorns that cut your feet

as you follow Mother Mary

that crowd your path

through the arbor


let me tell you about a dream

that has absorbed my mind

you whisper, and like the

pied piper, you lead

crowds of boys into church

who are curious about

your juggling, your backflips

and all those doves

fluttering out

of your pockets

Sunday, January 24, 2010

St. Francis de Sales (patron of writers and journalists)

a spoonful of honey

attracts more flies

than a barrel full

of vinegar

a sky thick with cardinals

summons more tears

than a forest seeping

through dreams

a book full of dried petals

causes more breakdowns

than a skillet slippery

with grease

a shoulder covered in freckles

breaks more hearts

than a bed full

of burnt-out lightbulbs

a drawer teeming with fireflies

sings more one-hit-wonders

than a penny clattering

around a mouth


Note: The first stanza was written by St. Francis de Sales.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

St. John the Merciful

your eyes will themselves

not to close

this quilt of coins

cannot lull you to sleep

comfort is not made

of metal, you cannot

hear it click between

your teeth, the silver

like sulfur on your tongue

the weight pushes

your body further

towards the center of it all

when sleep should be

an art of rising up

in the night

a levitation above

all this necessity


A rich man presented him with a magnificent bed covering; he accepted it for one night, but then sold it, and disposed of the money in alms. The rich man "bought in" the article, and again presented it to John, with the same result. This was repeated several times; but John drily remarked: "We will see who tires first." It was not John. - Wikipedia

Friday, January 22, 2010

St. Vincent of Saragossa (patron of São Vicente, Lisbon; Vicenza, Italy, vinegar-makers, wine-makers)

from across the field,

it looked like a pool

so black

like a hole to the center

of the Earth, a portal

through which you could

forget everything

as the foxes swept nearer,

like flames through the wheat

the black mass shuddered,

hovered above the body

like a vestment, then one flew

a single bird against

the sky

an unkindness

of ravens

to mourn the dead


According to legend, after being martyted, ravens protected St. Vincent's body from being devoured by wild animals, until his followers could recover the body. His body was taken to what is now known as Cape St. Vincent; a shrine was erected over his grave, which continued to be guarded by flocks of ravens. - Wikipedia

Thursday, January 21, 2010

St. Agnes (patron of virgins, chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, & rape victims)

golden hair wound around you

as if your body was a spool

and this was the way to hide

beneath something

lighter than yourself

to protect you from hands that

tangle themselves in your limbs,

that hold your tiny wrists to the ground,

put so much weight on your ribs

that you imagine them cracking

like kindling, like ice on a pond,

your heart is a fish

frozen beneath the surface.


"The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes' refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. As she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind." - Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

St. Sebastian (patron of athletes and archers)

Who could have guessed that you

could die twice? Left for dead with a

body covered in blood. Red as the first time

you let go, closed your eyes, and let it happen.

Red as the sun through eyelids.

You were thrust toward heaven and then,

as if there was a ribbon tied to your ribs

with an end held tightly between fingers

back on Earth, you fly home. Your skin

shines as if you were the sleekest kind of bird.

So full of arrows. Your body is a pincushion.

Underwater, you are an urchin I swim over nervously.

There’s poison in those quills. One prick of the needle

and I won’t be coming back to life.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

St. Fillan (patron of the mentally ill)

Saint Fillan's Cave, Pittenweem, Scotland

With an armful of stars

to light the path, you lead me

to the pool that is as still

as a mirror in the night.

This is a cure, you say,

Something to stop the sun

from speaking, to silence

the reasons to stop


The water is as cool

as I imagined as it

creeps higher and higher

up my thighs, towards

this heart that beats

too fast for this world.

You lead me to a bench

in the water, submerge

everything but my head,

as my hair fans out

and floats on the surface.

I’m tied here for the night,

which I understand

from your explanations.

If the ropes are untied

by the dawn, I’m cured.

If not, God must not want

me to walk back to our

sturdy earth and

keep living.

You wander back to shore

with that arm that glows

like a beacon, a moon

you carry like a baby.


"St. Fillan was the patron saint of the mentally ill. As late as the 19th century, the mentally ill were dunked in St Fillan's Pool, bound and left overnight tied to the runied chapel's font, or some say to a bench in the old priory. If the bonds were loosed by morning it was taken as a sign that the cure had been successful." -Wikipedia

Monday, January 18, 2010

St. Prisca

in the midst of fire

those searing flames

that wind around

your thighs

that lick

your neck

never seem to burn

as if you are nothing

but water, a cloud

that cannot go up

in smoke

constant as a stone path

leading to the sea

Sunday, January 17, 2010

St. Anthony (the Great, Abbot, of the Desert, of Egypt)

The Torment of Saint Anthony: Michelangelo


Oh, Saint Anthony

help me find what

I am always, completely

hopelessly looking for

as if it were huddled

in corn husks

as if all I had to do

was peel away

layers of crackling sun,

threads of something dead.


PATRON: against pestilence; amputees; animals; basket makers; basket weavers; brushmakers; Burgio, Sicily; butchers; Canas, Brazil; cemetery workers; domestic animals; eczema; epilepsy; epileptics; ergotism (Saint Anthony's fire); erysipelas; gravediggers; graveyards; hermits; hogs; Hospitallers; Lost items ; monks; Mook, Nederlands; pigs; relief from pestilence; shingles; skin diseases; skin rashes; swine; swineherds

Saturday, January 16, 2010

St. Fursey

there is a fire that rages

and wakes you from sleep

curls your hair

into the tightest spirals

those hands that reach out

from under your bed

to touch your ankles in the night

to show you the whites of their eyes

those fingertips that burn

their whorls into your skin

and the heat that always remains

Friday, January 15, 2010

St. Paul of Thebes (patron of the clothing industry and weavers)

you hold the slivers

of milky moons

between ruddy fingers

and bring the shining

crescents to your teeth

slip them onto the

pink bed of your tongue

as two lions

with paws as broad

as your shoulders

dig your grave

is that what it feels like

to live alone in the desert?

to eat the moon?

can you trace the years

of solitude in the

curls of your beard?