“Three ikons & some rain”
At the end of the shift you discover
you got the same pay as the others
who lounged all day in the shade
while you busted your ass in the sun.
Your sister entertains the guests
on her second glass of wine
while you are consigned to the kitchen
scrubbing the pots and pans.
Your feckless younger brother
gets your parents’ attention and love
while they have reserved for you
the headaches of running the farm.
Accused of committing adultery
you face death by stoning
while the one who was really at fault
gets off with a lecture and a warning.
You are climbing an endless ladder
disappearing into the clouds
while demons swarming around you
compete to pull you down.
The Calf’s Head
In the shade of a tree, three young men
have finished their meal; nothing’s left
on the table but a calf’s head in a bowl.
They are discussing in silence
something important, their faces turned
towards each other in a circular gaze.
Each holds in his left hand
a staff of authority, and with his right
gestures towards the bowl.
Apart from their stillness, attention,
serenity, and faintly discernible wings,
they are much like us.
Perhaps they would like us to join them:
there’s an open place at the table
beside the calf’s head in a bowl.
27 July 305
unmercenary healer, holy helper
canonically depicted as a young man
with a full head of curly hair,
in his left hand holds a gold medicament box
at the level of his heart,
in his right a gold spoon ready to extract
from the unguents, powders and pills
a remedy specific to the illness
revealed to his diagnostic gaze.
Surrounding the central image of the saint,
a border of miniature scenes depicts
the stations on his path to martyrdom:
he is made the emperor’s physician;
brings back to life a boy bitten by a snake;
makes a paralytic walk, a blind man see.
Denounced by envious colleagues
for healing in the Divine Name,
Panteleimon is sentenced to death
by the pagan Emperor Maximian.
But blazing torches cannot burn him;
the breaking wheel breaks under him;
as from a soothing bath
he rises from a vat of molten lead.
And when he allows at last
the executioner to lop off his head,
from the stump of his neck
flows blood and milk
Alas, the many stories
of his life and martyrdom,
his diagnostic gaze and healing heart,
are pious legends told of many saints.
Nevertheless, in the year 305 in Nicomedia
under the reign of emperors Diocletian
and Maximian, was martyred
an unmercenary healer called Panteleimon.
In Ravello a vial of his desiccated blood
interspersed with milk liquefies
annually on the day of his martyrdom.
Alphonsus Liguori testifies, “I have seen it.”
In a corner of the curio shop
between the post cards and the tee shirts
they are listening.
In a glass case beside a card saying
Not For Sale
they are listening.
With eyes sewn shut
they cannot see, with lips
sewn shut they cannot speak,
cut from their bodies
the shrunken heads
cannot move but are listening
to the sound of wind
through the palm trees, waves
rolling over the reef, cars
driving by not stopping, rain
on the roof all night, rain
dripping from the eaves and the awnings.