Martyrdom Is for the Young

Ursula, shot dead, marched the ten thousand
virgins, just walked them! with the pope in tow
to say she could or to prove maybe that
the purity of youth was worth the shock
of Huns beheading them, each and every
one, as God’s synchronicity seems to
bargain lives away in those old stories,
 
leaving ribs and shoulder blades and femurs
intricately piled like lattice beneath
the church floor and the bishop’s slippers.
How did she reckon her sad pilgrimage
or, at eleven, marriage to a king?
And Sebastian’s painterly wounding—
What of that? His torso lean and slightly
 
twisted in the beautiful agony of
arrows, while behind his abandoned look
skyward he must have been thinking how
had it come to this with his gift for healing
and his luck, now bound by an empire to a tree
as the archers, job done, departed from their
malfeasance back to the voiceless and blind in the
town?
 
And Jesus, of course, we know his knowing or
not knowing, never having been to Rome or seen the
enemies
of the state suspended like sacks on their limbs
snapped by the roadside. Too late!
He could not have been man and not regretted,
wiser as he confronted Pilate at the bloody bowl,
how much good was left to do and how
his angel knew him in the darkness
as awakened, and infinite and finite.

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