St. Catherine of Siena: The Intactness of Fragments

Why should you believe
knives can enter a body
delicately enough
to repair it?
You’re a mutilated corpse
 
in a Roman graveyard,
you’re a pilgrimage of parts:
head and arm in Siena,
left foot in Venice,
torso in Rome.
Christ’s come to collect
 
the invisible ring
he placed on your finger,
but that ring finger’s locked
in a Florentine chapel,
its mystical jewel held in pawn.
 
(If this were a murder
I’d mistake you for evidence;
if this were a war
I would call you a trophy.)
 
The faithful are dying
to toss your bones in an ossuary
just to watch them sort out
from false relics.
They love the sure bet
 
in your bones, no risk of chance
in your body: a skeleton
that breaks down to loaded dice.
Let the faithful fight
 
over scraps. My mother
found your name
in an Illinois graveyard,
and I’ve carried it ever since.
 
(My mother,
who wrote begging Rome
for a piece of your body
so I’d have you
in the palm of my hand.)
 
Please understand:
Back then the world was flat
and covered in corn,
in cars junked for parts,
sides of meat being hacked at,
 
in women genuflecting
outside the Biograph Theater
just to dip their hems in
John Dillinger’s blood.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The Affordable Care Act has changed our expectations for health care. It shifted the way we live, which may be shifting what we believe.
Michael RozierMay 25, 2017
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speak to the media about President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget in the Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, May 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The U.S. bishops have raised some serious concerns about what this proposal says about our national values.
The EditorsMay 25, 2017
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, following after a Republican policy luncheon. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Congress is asking the nation to make “immoral choices,” said Sister Keehan, the president of the Catholic Health Association.
Kevin ClarkeMay 25, 2017
Philippine government soldiers walk past a mosque before their May 25 assault on Maute insurgents, who have taken over large parts of the town of Marawi. Residents started to evacuate Marawi after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law across the entire Muslim-majority region of Mindanao. (CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)
Gunmen claiming to have links with the Islamic State group threatened to kill hostages, including a Catholic priest, who were taken from the southern Philippine city of Marawi on May 23.