—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,

                                            their legs
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.