Saint Alphonsus instructed his followers:
“Take only what you need.” Retreating into
the desert, he lived for three weeks eating
volcanic ash, waiting on Uriel’s command.
After twenty days he was flame, his mind,
the arc of sky. He no longer felt his toes
scraping hot sands. He walked unharmed
past rattlesnakes, blended into copper hillsides,
drank from arid sage plants. The ascetic turned
into wind, moving effortlessly over mountains,
branches of tall cypress. Years later, clerics
found his rotted sandals, placed them as a relic
amid hair and purported bones of local saints.
Believers still come to place their hands
on the worn insteps where Alphonsus stood
looking into the archangel’s eyes. Supplicants
touch desert dust to tongues, reverently bow,
attempt to cast off everything but their marrow.
He loves the salt inside me.
Cures my grieving with an unguent
made from starfish limbs and foam.
He trolls oceanic depths,
tidepools I cannot enter.
His silhouette stains a scrim of clouds.
I enter through his singing,
ancient chords, discordant tones.
Myth still intact, I surrender.
No one marks my vigils,
nights I give over to scrying
over piers and jetties.
I write my name on currents
of ocean water and wait
for my lover to surface.
by Gerard Wozek