byMarkBibbins?

Editor

AWrestler’sBookof?

Saints

(i)

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy。

Mysisterholdsalightertothepale,thickenedsolesofherfeet,butColumba?

—?

transcribingtheBibleasinvadersswarmedtheabbeywalls?

—?

ranoutofcandles。

Hefoundfreshwaxinhislefthand,lightingeachfingerfromtheembersofthelast。

Whatisthebodybutabody,youmightsay。

Mysisterknowsbetterthanthat。

Whatisthebodybutacarnivalride?

Whatisthebodybutalongfallordive?

Ifthesoulisallthatcounts,whyseverhandsfingers,feet?

Whykeepthempreciousinthereliquary,why?

kneel?

(ii)

Precious,inthereliquary,wekneel。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy。

Mysisterbreaksopenholesinherhands,butFrancisborestigmatatoo?

—?

thewordfromtheGreek,tomark。

Whatisthebodybutanornament?

Whatisthebodybutaprize?

Atcarnivalswrestlingmatches,amarkisatarget,afan,someonewhodoesn’tknowit’sfake。

Orifheunderstandsthatmuch,hedoesn’tknowit’salsoreal。

Thewrestlershiderazorbladesintheirwristbands,ontheirfingertips,toopentheirownforeheadswhenthey’rehit。

Bloodpoursfromeveryhomemadecrownof?

thorns。

(iii)

Bloodpoursfromeveryhomemadecrownofthorns,seepsbetweenbaredgrinningteeth,buthey:trackanymadnessback,itgrowsholy。

TheglowbehindColumba’sheadishisownhand,alight。

Whosayswecannotmakeourselvesintosaints?

Thewrestlersaresplitintoparts:aheel,aface。

Thefacestompstheheel?

—?

thesewordsgrowstrangeinthering,meanotherthings;thesepartsaremagnified,madeintowholes。

Whatisthebodybutanassortment?

Whatisthebodybutshorn?

ThewrestlergrowshisshininghairaslongasSamson’swas,before。

Everystrandisoiled,asifhehasjustbeenbaptized。

(iv)

Oiled?

—?

asifhehasjustbeenbaptized?

—?

thewrestlerhascommunioninamatch。

Slapamatchtooilyougetflame;trackanymadnessback,itgrowsholy。

Weeatthebrokenbodyofagod?

—?

doesthatmakeuscannibal?

Onlyifwe,too,aregods。

Onlyifwe,too,cantakeahundredhitsbouncebackup。

Whatisthebodybutanicon,ashow?

Thewrestlerslapsamantokingdomcome。

Thisisthemiracle:heisbeatentodeath,yetlives。

Iskilled,yetrisesthreedayslater,thousandsscreaminghisreturn。

Wedrinkhisblood,stillwarm。

Wewearhis?

shirt。

(v)

Wedrinkhisblood,stillwarm。

Wewearhisshirt,theonehetugsofftenderly,amanborntoshowtheworldhisscars,theirshining。

Thisisawe-some,thecrowdchants,butifyoutrackanymadnessback,itgrowsholy。

Mysistershutshermouthlocksittight,butCatherinestarvedherselfaswell,foodjustadistractionfromtheimpossibletheologyofbonesgrowingbelowherskin。

Thewrestler’sribsglimmerbetweenhismuscles。

Stretchedlikeputty,heputsustogether。

Theringcollapses,slanting,pouringmenontheconcretefloor。

Thisworld:it’sfullofunnaturaldisaster。

(vi)

It’sfullofunnaturaldisaster,thewrestlingring:tablessmashtopieces,chairstwistuntiltheirmetalseemstransformed。

Theiroldpurpose,transubstantiated。

Thisisdinnergonewrong,theselfthemeal。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy:evenJacoblacedupbootstowrestleanenemy,angelorGod。

Hefoughttoadrawwasblessed。

Hishipwrenchedfromitssocketyet。

Whatisalimpnexttofamelikethis?

ForgetJacob,anameadjacenttotheHebrewwordforheel。

Heisgivenastagename:Israel。

Heisgivenaroletoplay,a?

face。

(vii)

Heisgivenaroletoplay,aface,thewrestlerwhoholdsfireinhishandsisnotsinged。

Hewearsthebarbedwirelikeahalo。

Whatdoesamanbecome,whenhecansuffersomuch,thrive?

Heiseitheragodorhashisbacking?

—?

trackanymadnessback,itgrowsholy。

Heisthepatronsaintofpain,ofroar,ofstrengthmadeweakraisedtorageagain,ofmusclesbuffedtoshineuntilyouseeyourselfinthem。

Youseeyourselfinhim。

Whatisthebody,afterall,butamirror,butaglass?

Filledtotherimbrimmingover。

Spillingontothe?

mat。

(viii)

Brimmingover,spillingontothemat,thistideisdarkasgarnets,deepwideasJordan?

—?

saysmysister?

—?

onceuponatime。

Iamtheonlymarkforthisdisplayofskinbones,ofbloodthatcouldeasilybemyown。

Thebodyisnothingbutapunishment,apenance。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy。

Mysisterpressesherhandstoherthroatpassesout,butSaintTeresaswoonedeveryday。

Sheprayedtobemadeill,asifbysuffering,shemightserve。

Whocansay?

Everyonelovesacomeback,thestonerolledaway。

Thebodyfelled?

arisen。

(ix)

Rolledaway,thebodyfelled,arisen,seemstoshine。

Thewrestlerhowls。

Mysisterpeelsthescabbedflatsofherwristshands。

Sheflicksherskinawayasifitisnotsacred,eachcellarelictobekept。

Shedoesn’tcarewhat’sleftbehind。

Whatisthebodybutanurgetobebeatenout?

Amyth,thatwoundsgiveofftheirownlight。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy。

Freshweltsriseonthewrestler’sbacklikebread,leaven,bloodteasesbelowhisskin,ariverofsymbol,ofsustenancetobeuncorked,drunkdown。

ThecrowdcallsOhmyGod?

—?

butHedoesnotacknowledgethem。

(x)

Mygod?

—?

buthedoesnotacknowledgethem,busiedwithwreckingworlds,acarpenterinreverse。

Christhimselfflippedthetablesatthetemple?

—?

talkaboutaheelturn。

Thisworshipofbodiesisnothingnew,thisroarforthesamebodiestobewrecked。

Betweenreverencerevulsionliesalineasfineascilia,fineasflagella,fineasdustofbonesgrounddown。

Trackanymadnessback?

—?

itgrowsholy?

—?

butwebalkatthebrainkeptinthejar。

GoodGodAlmighty,theoldannouncercries,westandtoseewhohasreturned,isrisentoforgiveourevery?

sin。

(xi)

Herisestoforgiveoureverysin,risestothefirstropethesecondthetop。

Climbsladdersthechain-linkedsidesofcages,seeksgreaterheightslikeheat。

Whatisthebody?

—?

Ihavenotforgot?

—?

butastory?

Saintscalledshedformerselveslikeflesh。

Theyfitintheskinthey’regiven,theskinwestitchtogetheraswewatch。

Wewant?

—?

thenwecallhisfamousname,buthe,shapeshifter,hasabandonedit。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy。

JosephofCupertinoalsoflew,rosetothestoneroofofhiscelllefthisweightedunsaintedpast?

below。

(xii)

Hisweightedunsaintedpastbelow,thewrestlerclamberstothecage’stop。

Ho-lyshit,thecrowdchants,butwhatisn’tholyinthislight?

Frompartsunknownthewrestlercomes,frompartsunknownheispiecedtogether:aface,aheel,aneyeballgougedoutdangling。

Thewrestlerlosesatoothinhismattedbeard。

Hisforeheadisadesert,pathstrackedintoitssand。

Heleansteeters:Ho-lyshit,webreathe,wescream,Ho-lyshit,asthewrestlerfalls。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy,heaven,plummeting。

Whatisthebodyifnotasong?

Holy,holy?

holy。

(xiii)

Ifnotasong?

—?

holy,holy,holy?

—?

whatisthisrepetitionbutacure?

(Thiscompulsionismadnesstoo,youknow。

)Thewrestlerscatterstacksacrossthemat,butSaintSebastianlivedthroughathousand

arrows。

Inthering,alldestructionisself-destruction。

Thoushallnotharmanyother?

—?

unlessitisaskedfor,beggedfor,onlywaytogranthiswish。

Thewrestlerdies,bytheway。

Thisstorydoesn’tendwell。

Oneplungetoomany,onepushtoofar:thewayanysaintbecomesamartyr。

Trackanymadnessback:itgrows,holy。

Whatelseisthisbody,ifnota?

prayer?

(xiv)

Whatelseisthisbody,ifnotaprayer?

I’mrunningoutofpossibilities。

Ifthewrestlersareangels,saints,orgods,thenwhatdoesthatmakeus,whocheertoseethemtormented?

Whatarewe,followersorPharisees?

Believersorjeeringmasses?

Areweourselvesthegodstheywanttheblessingof?

Ican’tkeeptrack。

Idon’tknowwheremysisterwent。

Idon’tknowwhosheis。

Myfocusslipslikesweatingskinthroughpalms,likebloodthroughbusted-openveins,butIrecallthesewords,asmallcomfort?

—?

Imusthaveheardthemsomewhere,longago?

—?

trackanymadnessback,itgrows?

holy。

(xv)

Trackanymadnessback:itgrowsholy,precious,inthereliquary。

Wekneel。

Bloodpoursfromeveryhomemadecrownofthorns。

Oiled?

—?

asifwehavejustbeenbaptized?

—?

wedrinkhisblood,stillwarm。

Wewearhisshirt。

It’sfullofunnaturaldisaster,theroleheisgiventoplay,theface:brimmingover,spillingontothemat,rolledaway。

Thebodyfelled,arisen?

—?

mygod?

—?

buthedoesnotacknowledgeus。

Herisestoforgiveoureverysin,hisweightedunsaintedpastbelow。

Ifnotasong?

—?

holy,holy,holy?

—?

whatelseisthisbody,ifnota?

prayer?

MaireadSmallStaid’spoems,essays,andarticleshavebeenpublishedinAGNI,theBeliever,Narrative,NinthLetter,andPloughshares,aswellasonlineatTheHairpin,Jezebel,andThePoint。

SheisagraduateoftheHelenZellWriters’ProgramattheUniversityofMichiganandaMacDowellFellow。

Youwillfindmorepoemshere。

Youmaycontacttheeditoratpoems@theawl。