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.

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