ST. LUCY LEAD TO HER MARTYRDOM
—Bernardino Fungai, circa 1490
This scene began with a simple NO:
St. Lucy refused to lose her mother
to a disease of the blood,
so turned to St. Agatha in a dream.
She refused to horde her family’s riches
through life and into the tomb,
so released them to ease suffering.
She refused a rich man’s hand
and so utterly angered him
he denounced her to the Governor.
She refused Paschasius’ demand
that she burn an offering for the emperor,
so he ordered her defiled.
She refused to go with the guards
when they came to bring her to the brothel,
so they tried to drag her off.
She refused to move one inch,
so they hitched her to oxen
that pulled until their train broke.
When St. Lucy refused to be moved,
the guards piled wood at her feet
and set it ablaze.
She refused to burn,
so stood there calmly gazing at the hillside
until the flames died down.
The guards refused to let this pass,
so stuck a sword halfway to its hilt
into St. Lucy’s back.
Even then, she refused to bend a knee,
so here we are, communion wafer
poised in air awaiting grace,
oxen sprawled out everywhere
in the grass,
He leaves a hole
in the wheat
large enough for four deer
to sleep in close circle,
tucked underneath their bodies
to treasure all warmth.
His smell still there, always,
sticks thick to the grain
like disease armadillos spray.
You can wait for him
in this space
if your heart can face
such vacuum of time.
Sit down in his clearing.
Look up at his piece of sky.
Open yourself to absence
as August dirt misses rain.
Know that he will return,
slipping into the field
like breath through lips,
his broad shoulders blotting out
the moon’s dull glow.
JACK B. BEDELL is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, forthcoming in 2018). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.