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.’