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Poem-a-Day

Saint Hyacinth

SAINT HYACINTH

You carried your secret
faith through the Imperial household
like the bowl of warm rosewater
you brought to Trajan’s chambers
while the lambs were being slaughtered.

Mealtimes you were a magician
with your napkin. It appeared to others
you had impeccable manners,
wiping your mouth after every bite
as the cloth filled with half-chewed meat.

Later, you’d shake it out for the crows
who’d learned to gather under your window.
But one night the Chamberlain, suspicious
of your thinness, demanded you open
the napkin. The meat was still warm

from your mouth. You didn’t deny
you were a Christian. Your torture
was gentled somewhat because you were
only twelve and they didn’t want to kill you
too soon. Because all they fed you was

the meat of sacrificed animals, you refused
to eat. So light had you become
in your starvation you hovered
above the dungeon floor, your chains
so taut they groaned. When you finally left

your body, they couldn’t believe
how easy it was to carry. Now
your skull is crowned and your skeleton
drenched in jewels and gold
in the Church of the Assumption.

The flesh with its wounds has washed
away and you lie on your side as if to say:
“See how I starved myself down into bone?
Go back where you come from and
love something so much you disappear.”
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