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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
Advertisement

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

Hong Kong residents hold a banner that reads: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” The Occupy Central movement was initiated as an effort to force the Hong Kong and Chinese governments to allow true democracy in the city. (CNS photo/Francis Wong)
“I believe it’s essential for some people to go to jail for the sake of democracy. It will in the end strengthen the movement.”
Verna YuOctober 17, 2017
In a zombie world, the good Samaritan would be toast.
Patrick GallagherOctober 17, 2017
Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Malmo, Sweden, to Rome Nov. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis confessed that while he has “chutzpah,” “I am also timid.”
Gerard O'ConnellOctober 17, 2017
Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. She is pictured as her husband speaks at Peachtree Academy in Covington, Georgia, in this Feb. 29, 2012, file photo. (CNS photo/Erik S. Lesser, EPA)
23 senators voted against Ms. Gingrich’s confirmation, a departure from previous nominations that faced little opposition.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 16, 2017