Monday 29th September 2014

I have just sent a submission to the Federation of Writers, Scotland. This is quite an achievement for this year. They published my poem (a sestina) ‘Response to a Damaged Child’.

The naked statue kneels in the glass case

with palms raised in blessing. My western eyes

avert their gaze, striving not to look

between his legs. I see, he is a saint

and thus has no sex. I should feel saved

but lack faith in these rites of respect.

 

‘Why is this person worthy of respect,

Mother?’ I see her hesitate in case

I’m not ready to hear how they were saved.

‘He wore no clothes’, she says, ‘With my own eyes

I saw them torn each day. He was a saint

because no-one could explain, only look.’

 

‘His clothes are new at night but look,

by morning they are torn! We must respect

this, for it is God’s will. He is a saint

who is sent to us from heaven. In case

we show disrespect we avert our eyes

from his nakedness; happy to be saved.’

 

‘And when he wandered the lanes, women saved

food for him from their meals and said, ‘Look,

he is sent from God with those kind eyes

so full of love for us. With all respect

we fed and cared for him, anxious in case

he should starve. Pray for us, our Saint.

He aged; we revered him even more, our Saint

 

For we saw our deeds repaid and felt saved

in spite of the strangeness of his case.

No clothes, no speech, no urge to eat; a look

from him and we bowed low with respect.

They were from another world – those kind eyes.

 

He died and that day we raised up our eyes

to heaven from this spot; wishing our Saint

might have a shrine where all could show respect.

And here we are.’ She thinks I am saved

now I’ve heard the story. She says ‘Look,

how crowds flock here each year to this case.

At this case prayers are sent to our Saint

who must look down as we pay him respect.

We who were first saved yearn for those soft eyes.’

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