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Las Horas de Bel้n: A Book of Hours
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150 First Avenue
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Contributor Notes

Catherine Sasanov Catherine Sasanov

from Reassembling the Bodily Relics of St. Gemma Galgani

Inheriting the Saint


I didn't come to your house
seeking transports of love,

but stairs are a flight. They end
in a landing. I ascend

to your room, up
narrow stone steps down which
Satan once threw you —

Your soul tumbles in, tumbles
out of my body,

a cat landing on its feet.


Let me remind you, we've already met —

St. Anthony's Hospital.
Rockford, Illinois.

You were sixty years dead,
twenty-five years into your sainthood

the day my mother
dragged you out of Heaven by your hair.

One strand from your head
kept you near me all night,

kidnapped till you found me a cure.


Now on behalf of a mother who's dead,

I let your bones ride
the palm of my hand.

She begged me to work them
till each relic's a phone
ringing off the hook,
a woman calling and calling
your name.

I'm to jam Heaven's switchboard —
long distance dialing
with charges reversed

and the faith
you'll be taking my call.


For days, Death fingered her soul,

but my mother kept reading you
into existence.

I descended
between lines: those white gutters

you wander in stories of your life
where you don't recognize yourself.

I still feel snow falling
over your tracks. Mother's sheets drifting up.

Me freezing to death.

I thought, I'll find you in churches.
I thought, Down on my knees

even a floor has a plan.


Just once, she set your relics aside,

looked into her hand: her life
strung across it
in one solid line. No interruption

meaning raised from the dead.

No scar implying stigmata
splits open her palm. No sign

a miracle
might lead her from death, from a dull
to exotic life.


By the end, her soul
waded in shallows. Her last breath

barely able to lift it
out of her body. Morphine

deconstructed her prayers,
deconstructed you, saint, when she placed you

in my hands: Your bones posed
as primitive tools; as pager, placebo, secret

weapon of God. Repercussions of sanctity
were filling the house. There's nothing,

she whispered, you can't ask of an image.

you can't ask of the empty air.


Stagger into the bedroom —

What you feel coming on
rides you to your knees:

the Virgin's crucified Son,

His smell of roses, raw meat
that the wind will not hound;

the wind will not drive Him
out of your room.

God most apparently clear

when air's finally emptied
by the absence of light;

when air bears its dust,
is broken by light.

You jump when the sun hits the floor,

claws the hem of your skirt,
bars your way to the door.

You prop open Christ's wounds
with your sins —

What would you do
if He didn't come to you

bleeding? The blood from His side
hardens to rubies,

but that mine's caving in
near the heart. Someone's calling

your name, and your soul
falls back into your body,

your soul hauled hard
into your ribcage. Your face buried

in the shallow grave of your hands
where no one can see it,

where you could die hearing
the mere mention of your name

emptying your room of God.

Reassembling the Bodily Relics of St. Gemma Galgani
(Italy 1878-1903)

Did you ever imagine

(locking yourself in your room each Thursday evening
as your hands, feet, and side
began to split open)

everyone wanting

(your coarsely ground bone
tweezered into lockets, locked into droplets
of glue then covered with crystal)

a piece of your damage?

(I'm breaking that glass —
each relic, a fire alarm
smashed to set screaming)

Soft shatters of glass enter my fingers

at the table where I piece you back whole —
Shelled like a nut.
Shucked like an oyster. Reader,

(locked in your room, your flesh
rending itself)

hold steady this chalice
while I wring the dried blood
from Gemma Galgani's clothes.

(A most faithful copy
of crucified Christ
in her virginal body.)

Gemma, there's no completing
your gashes
if I can't find the stigmata a doctor
wiped free from your hands,

tossed into the garbage.

(Flee into My wounds)

All you ever wanted

(blood tears, blood sweats, blood pouring
from your mouth)

All you ever wanted was to silence the flesh, your family

(Look what Christ did to me)

spying and giggling
through chinks in your door. The devout
taking down

(Look what Christ did to me)

your one-sided conversations
with air. But who cares

(Destroy this body, O Jesus...)

to read your ecstacies, diary

(...O Jesus, break these chains)

when the Word is made flesh
to dwell among us?

The Poverty of Gemma Galgani

Lucca, Italy 1897

Never again will there be a life prior
to this rapidly cooling corpse, to creditors swarming

in and out of each room, ransacking your house.

They snatch the coins from your father's eyes,

eat the food off the stove,
drag the beds out the door. Your brothers

scream at the dead to explain himself, his debt
coming due all around them.

You'd always prayed for rooms flooded
with the poverty of Christ,

but they're a sister who gnaws
bones begged from the butcher,

a brother healing the sick
with unguents, tinctures
he can't afford to bring home.

Death makes it clear: Big plans for your family.

You already hear it stripping their bones,

the men down the hall
stripping your room,
making their own what distracts you from God.

They want to see, when they take
your comb and mirror,
if your pious-girl hair will snarl with light. So much

light you can't bear
bleeding over your body, each shuttered window

a scab that you pick at —

Father, what kind of soul must be flung out a window,
drunk on its own rotting corpse?

The Stigmata of Gemma Galgani

Lucca, Italy 1903

You can't hide the man dying inside your flesh.

Your brothers scratch at your door
sniffing for blood,
smelling His marks in your hands.

They're scared of the faint, nappy light
starting to cling to your head,
forcing their bodies to throw down their shadows.

In the street,
there's a sound that your gaze makes
scraping the ground.
At home, even screaming can't drown out your silence.

You drop to your knees
and air comes to you masculine,
wounded, bleeding.
Air hangs in your room.
Your family's too scared to breath it.

All they know is Christ rises
to your body's surface,
tearing you open from the inside out,

that this has nothing to do with the twentieth century.

What's electric
threads its way through Lucca's
medieval walls,
but falls a room short of your prayers.

Man-made light in the hall barely licking your doorway,

barely licking
you or your God
wanting to flee from this world:

Lord, enter my body through these broken whispers.
Death has already so gorged on my family,
TB only picks at my bones.