St. Valerie, Patroness of Unanswered Questions and Overcast Skies; Sometimes Conflated with St. Sylvia
On the third day, they began to worry.
On the third day, they made
flyers, phone calls,
found your body
in your car in the flood-
ruined field more than
an hour from your home.
Air had recently healed
the town you drove to, absorbing
the Susquehanna uncredited
where earth lay sodden, exhausted, still
scarred as a burst lung: unable
& now able, drying, to give you
its wasted space to hide & die.
We don’t say suicide. We say
unattended death. We are careful
not to say the October wind
is burning: we say tenuis sub
artus flama demanat. The city
you died in had, for that month,
cleaved to the song you kept etched
in your skin: All we can do is keep
breathing. As schools began to
surface from the river’s rapacious
embrace. As animals swept away
in the current were kept from the blurred
gazes of those who’d lost them
or left them to drown. We don’t say God
damned all of us. Or ask why. We say Dona nobis
pacem. Dona eis requiem, sempiternam.
We don’t talk about your great
tap root tattoo. We make Valerian
root tea to relax, ease our hearts
into your choice to die. We toughen
and tauten our lungs like leather
knowing: we’ll keep you, keep
kneeling, exhaling these litanies.
Thomas, St. Skeptic
I could say narwhal nightjar
rune or horse or deer. I do.
I say these things & mean love
like everyone: I have my
ocean my albatross Fox my pink
and violet aurora. This is
not the point: whether pain
can be salved or if we
can be saved. I know God’s hand
opens for us. But sometimes
I can’t Look,
how I ignored the begging
dog, scraps of my meal
indifferent on the plate.
Sometimes I am a vial
of can’t. I don’t believe
in fearless. Show me your
whitest scar: I want to talk
to someone who knows
what makes the beast
the beast is that when
he opens his mouth, we lean in.