3 Poems on Saints by Rachel Milligan

Black and white portrait of a woman with red flame halo surrounding her head

November 24—ST. JOHN of the Cross

“Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it”

Walking up the hill from
the house Dylan thought

he saw a bag of trash
at a distance on the curb

we got closer it calcified
into a grisly shape

barefoot and almost
naked we leaned into

our walking unsure was this
a woman or a child

joked about Blue Velvet
felt unreal like you did

until this moment hastening
our approach we breathed

hard turned toward each
other turned back and

the shape was gone
likely through a side door

or around the yard is it
my job to consider every

angle or one in excess
though I have known

only the briefest glimpse
of camp even I know

fire’s inherent potential
later I’d collect my own

ghost stories some nights
with the door closed I stare

what feels like forever
into grief’s mirror

hold on too long
an instant where

we are both

November 22—ST. CECILIA, Virgin, Martyr

Want to write about this date
but also can’t stop thinking

of livestream I saw masked
Italians processing toward

basilica of Our Lady of
(Good) Health (no evidence

of her existence or meaning
outside erection of Plague

church 17th century
requisite construction to ward

off Plague, humans always
producing capital) in the year

of our Lord 2020
first pandemic nascent end of

Anthropocene last night
by the backyard firepit

I read out loud Wikipedia
article for Our Lady

of Fatima, Portugal
skipped all historical

political context for
another night/another mind

focused on the whole “day
the sun danced” thing

recalled picture book relayed
tale in utter seriousness when

I suggested aliens he shook
his head not to disagree,

exactly. St. Cecilia and yesterday
Our Lady, aiming to usher in

an era whole of virgins.
For flames to hold no

power over my body.
Head half severed at

nexus of long
beautiful neck in

expectant dormant
docile repose

February 5—ST. AGATHA, Virgin, Martyr

Feels so good
to see what

I am certain
I don’t want

since these days
I exist in

a constant
state of want

take the plant
I can’t take

care of leaves
as big as two or

three or four of
my hands side

by side a leaf is
the word’s not

yellowing if
it’s yellow

already is
it and it is

the word’s not
wanting either

since when I
don’t know but

until when
I do: as

long as
it is

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Rachel Milligan is the author of Queen Carrion, chosen by Mary Ruefle as a finalist in the BOAAT Press 2015 Summer Chapbook Competition. Her poems have appeared in DREGINALD, Sixth Finch, The Iowa Review, bedfellows, and elsewhere. She attended Temple University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and she currently lives and writes just outside of Philadelphia.

Margarida Riggio is a Spanish illustrator with experience in designing posters, books, portraits and other commissioned work. You can see her work on TumblrInstagram.