The Martyrdom of St Teresa


There was a sudden croon of lilies
Drifting like music through the shop;
The bright knives flashed with heavenly malice,
The choppers lay in wait to chop;

And Jesus with his crown of briar
Worn like a little hat in Vogue
Picked up her soul of ruby fire
And popped it in his shopping bag.

She was so small a saint, a holy
Titbit upon the butcher’s block—
Death chose the cuts with care and slowly
Put on his apron, eyed the clock

And sitting down serenely waited
Beside the plump brown carcass there,
Which kings had feared and the popes hated,
Which had known neither hate nor fear;

While through all Spain mysterious thunder
Woke cannibal longings in the blood,
Inviting man to put asunder
The flesh that had been joined with God.

The little nuns of her foundation
Arrived on foot, by mule or cart,
Each filled with meek determination
To have an elbow, or the heart.

Death with a smile expertly slices
A rib for one, for one the knee,
Cuts back a breast, cuts deeper, prises
Out the raw heart for all to see;

In Sister Philomena’s basket
Safe for St Joseph’s lies an arm;
The saw shrills on a bone, the brisket
Becomes a miracle-working charm;

At five to six Death drops his cleaver:
The sunset, as the crowd goes home,
Pours down on every true believer
The mystic blood of martyrdom.

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