by Alan Holder
Sebastian, converted to a reverse porcupine,
Thomas à Becket, struck dead by swords,
Joan of Arc transformed to a torch,
Agnes of Rome, age 13, fatally knifed in the throat,
Ignatius of Antioch, fed to lions in the Colosseum. . .
The list goes on and on, of bodies sacrificed
to belief, eyes fixed on the next world.
This world seems unlikely to give us
fresh instances of such martyrdom,
but shift the frame of reference and saints
are still among us, as with this mother
in the supermarket, steadily pushing
her wheelchaired son down the aisle,
his legs in braces, the boy unable
to hold his head up, to speak clearly,
victim of some genetic catastrophe.
For the mother, there will be no dark glamour
of a swift, terrible death, no canonization,
only being stretched on the rack of each day,
only having to open her eyes each morning
on the child that can never grow up,
never walk, never relinquish its necessary,
terrible grip on her, never stop pushing
her loving attentiveness to its limits.