BPJ Current Issue | › Archive | › Author Index | › About BPJ | › News | › Contact
Cathleen Calbert
BJP Home

Listening to the Voices of Medieval Sainted Ladies

I went for eleven days
nibbling the new flowers
of my father's lime tree
                                                                        I ate the petals
                                                                        of small white roses
                                                                        soaked in green tea
                                    I took no wine or meat
I lapped a little milk
to satisfy my family
                                                                        If fish was put to my lips,
                                                                        I sucked out the juice
                                                                        but left the rest of the flesh
                                    I lived on watered wine
                                    though I preferred
                                    the river water, filthy
                                    with salt from the tides
I ate only moldy bread
                                                                        I swallowed scabs and lice
                                    I mixed ash into my meat
I stirred in the dirt of the earth
                                                                        I threw in small stones
                                    I sucked the pus from the dying:
                                    nothing could be sweeter
After fasting for three years,
I was so hungry, I licked
the very earth in agony
                                                                        I ate seven black widows
                                                                        and lived alone for seven years
                                    I stopped menstruating
I stopped perspiring
                                                                        I stopped eliminating
                                    Then the stigmata came to me
I bled from my nose
                                                                        I bled from my hands
                                    I bled from my feet
The bread by my bed
became unnaturally sweet
                                                                        The aroma which rose
                                                                        from my hand caused
                                                                        one of my confessors
                                                                        to confess onto me
                                    I shed bits of skin and bone
                                    and gave these to those in need
My wash water,
if swallowed,
could heal disease
                                                                        My breasts filled with enough milk
                                                                        to feed an entire village
                                    My breasts filled with oil
                                    that made a good salve
                                    for the sores of my Sisters
I pressed the Lord to my breast
and gave him suck: what glory
                                                                        Christ came to me
                                                                        and bid me drink,
                                                                        pressing my lips to his side,
                                                                        thus I did slake the thirst
                                                                        long held inside of me
                                    A golden chalice,
                                    filled with blood,
                                    came to fill me
The host filled my mouth
with honey
                                                                        Honeycomb was on my
                                    "Give me the blood!"
                                    I cried to the priest
                                    "Give it to me!"
Let us go and devour our God
                                                                        This is His body,
                                                                        This is His blood


© 2010 Beloit Poetry Journal       Design by Jim Parmenter