Poem: Saint Afra

Several years ago I started putting together a manuscript of poetry based on Catholic saints. When I was a child both my mother and father were Catholics though not very practiced. My father, before going to Viet Nam, had aspirations to go to semenary. My mother lost her faith when I was small and she was poor. She had a falling out with the church and only went back when it was our turn to take our great-grandmother to holiday services.

In my young life, I was left to discover my own meaning of religion. By the time high school came I had visited every sect of Christianity and none of them rang true with me. I eventually found Buddhism and have been practicing ever since.

However, my whole life I have had a fascination with the Catholic church. I am drawn to stories/movies about this religion and nuns. The how and why people are canonized as saints has intrigued me. So I have begun a collection of poems of saints with interesting stories. Here is one of Saint Afra. I hope you enjoy.

Saint Afra, Master of Messkirch, c. 1535-1540

Saint Afra

She reclines gartered in lace
too fine for her profession
as her three handmaidens
elevate her status by holding her
in high regard, by coveting
her sexual prowess.

In the blinding rainstorm
a priest bids shelter
in her home, unknowing
and too pious to recognize
her for the courtesan she is.
His payment for kindness
is a splashing of holy water
as if she were a blessed virgin
in the high court of God’s own heaven.

They seize her the next day—
throw her into the dirty dungeon
for crimes against the government.

She is bound to the stake,
burned for all the wrong reasons.

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