St. Nicholas of Tolentino Comes Back as Atticus Finch
There are no birds in this account. There is perhaps Boo Radley in the Ghost Ditch,
just over the county line. Scout may be kicking a can down a road, but it’s more
likely she’s practicing writing Jean Louise in her best hand because this is a story
about language. The appropriate metaphor here may well be kudzu. It’s a cliché,
and it grows in the ditch. It grew straight through to the saint in the Marche. And
that’s the thing about saints—ubiquitous, so often a cover for something else.
Atticus left his tongue in the courtroom. The saint, too, speaks from experience
when he says, you must pull off your arms to climb into my skin. You must learn
to hold me in your mouth and chew my relic limbs. You must walk across time,
into places you have never been, using words like mercy and amen.
St. Nicholas of Tolentino Discerns a Parable of Initials in the Sin of Envy
I hear the crick, crick of envy in the dirt, the gnatted sky. I wonder if being N-V’d
is like being swarmed. Never alone. Skin-sucked and back-stabbed, I watch
the flapping creature mob the air, NVNVNVNVNVNVNVNVNVNVNVNV
NVNV, filling it with flimsy, less significant stars. The creature is nothing
if not eager, though persistence is her specialty. She arrives through a buttonhole
in the vest of morning, one morning that made the future disappear. The creature eats
it all, the worsted nights and days. She is set to destroy, to drain the blood out of every sweet
pasture, to maim time. I have known her need. I know what she has done: she believes
there is sufficient excuse for flaying this universe of skin. When she tastes death,
she thrums and thrills. I swear the only oath I can think to swear: even if I have to
kill myself, I’ll live.