Love the drill, confound the dentist.
Love the fever that carries me home.
Meat of exile. Salt of grief.
This much, indifferent
affliction might yield. But how
when the table is God’s own board
and grace must be said in company?
If hatred were honey, as even
the psalmist persuaded himself,
then Agatha might be holding
her breasts on the plate for reproach.
The plate is decidedly
ornamental, and who shall say that pity’s
not, at this remove? Her gown
would be stiff with embroidery whatever
the shape of the body beneath.
Perhaps in heaven God can’t hide
his face. So the wounded
are given these gowns to wear
and duties that teach them the leverage
of pain. Agatha listens with special
regard to the barren, the dry,
to those with tumors where milk
should be, to those who nurse
for hire. Let me swell,
let me not swell. Remember the child,
how its fingers go blind as it sucks.
Bartholomew, flayed, intervenes
for the tanners. Catherine for millers,
whose wheels are of stone. Sebastian
protects the arrowsmiths, and John
the chandlers, because he was boiled
in oil. We borrow our light
where we can, here’s begging the pardon
of tallow and wick. And if, as we’ve tried
to extract from the prospect, we’ll each
have a sign to be known by at last—
a knife, a floursack, a hammer, a pot—
the saints can stay,
the earth won’t entirely have given us up.