A Meditation on St. Sebastian

What is the secret
hidden behind
the veiled innuendo
that hangs
its tapestries
of heavy corded cloth
on these rotting temple walls?

I pierce your flesh with countless
arrows, yet you fail to die;
beheaded, in a pool of cloying blood
your gore-stained neck still
spouts a sermon.

Your skin reeking of the sweet
heavy sweat of gasoline, that hangs
like night jasmine in the humid air
is a reproach; and the raw furrows
there along your back
sing out a louder song than the
hiss and crack of the bullwhip
whose overture is now at end.

Shall I proceed to light the anointing oil
that to your neck you are immersed?
Will turning past their breaking point
the screws against your thumbs
release your hands
from this grasping hold on my neck?

I have burnt away your tongue
with live, red-hot coals;
Will your drawn and quartered limbs,
under the patient care of
some sister-wife,
be sewn to whole in some dark,
fetid swamp?

Look, the lions will not even
deign to touch your ruined
flesh — it reeks of waste,
of offal, some perfume
that burns the roughest tongue.

What would you live to prove,
that in your dying cause
remains?

Give me no more martyrs;
for the aroma of seared flesh
does not provide a savor
to my senses.

29 MAY 2004

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