Saint Rose of Lima

Never let my hands be to any one
an occasion to temptation.

ISABEL DE FLORES

She was the joke of the angels—a girl
crazy enough for God

that she despised her own beauty; who grew bitter herbs
to mix with her food,

who pinned a garland of roses to her forehead;
and who, in a fury of desire

concocted a potion of Indian pepper and bark
and rubbed it on her face, neck, and breasts,

disfiguring herself.
Then, locked away in a dark cell,

where no reflection was possible,
she begged for death to join her with her Master

whom she called Divine Bridegroom, Thorn
in My Heart, Eternal Spouse.

She would see His vague outline, feel His cool touch
on her fevered brow,

but as relief came, her vision would begin to fade,
and once again she would dip the iron bar into the coals,

and pass it gently like a magician’s wand over her skin—
to feel the passion that flames for a moment,

in all dying things.

Judith Ortíz Cofer, "Saint Rose of Lima" from The Latin Deli. Copyright © 1993 by Judith Ortíz Cofer.  Reprinted by permission of University of Georgia Press.
Source: The Latin Deli (University of Georgia Press, 1993)
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