Choices Apprehend You

Choices apprehend you as
in the question 'what to wear.'
The clutch of dresses that rustle
on the department store rack,
would they fade in your closet--
tags still fastened by gold safety pins?
Still, you're not bad in the right
dress, the one you won't wear
though if you found it and tried it,
there's a good chance you'd buy it.

It's not an issue, after all,
of what you can afford,
not a question, finally,
of the right occasion,
the handsome escort in black tie,
tux and tails. It's yourself,
afraid to appear
at your improbable best.
That it wouldn't suffice.

Thinking of how you drag yourself upright
each morning, all the betrayals
that stick in you like knives--
Saint Sebastian, pierced with arrows
presented himself to the emperor
as living proof of the power
of God. Later pin-makers prayed
to him, archers invoked his name
to make their aim more true.

A saint wouldn't surround herself
with pictures of her beauty.
It's a different motive
that summons you stripped
to the mirror.
What will you take as cover
against the room's full attention?

The martyred saint
is only a mist in your mind
as it moves forward
on the swell of your step
to the matching moment.
Don't think of that stifling
room under the stairs,
the wrench that lingered
after Irene nursed the sunken shafts
from Saint Sebastian's skin.

He died anyway,
he wouldn't keep quiet,
though he did not curse
for he thought his agony blest.
Eternity's magic
lived in his future
like an empty room
drenched in continuous light.

Paintings depicting him
naked and tortured
peer from the world's altars,
documents of agony
for the devout to ponder,
while lozenges of colored light
briefly stain images of mortified flesh.

Cruelty isn't all of the message.
Who knows if afterwards
the saint endured as he'd hoped?
The point--it comes back to you now
pausing before your dresses,
which appear to ripple--was his faith;
and the life he had was dross
compared to the golden nimbus
he dreamed as his end.


Without conviction
you will always resist
the command to dress for dinner,
the swaying weeds of your closet,
empty and mournful,
as you resist the love that divided you,
its possibility of birth.

In a swoon you watched
the spreading
lip of a wave open
to the black sea behind it.
The damp that seeped through
your skin was the touch of loss.

A love with little leeway
forced open your arms.
Averting your eyes,
you attempted to hide,
but your body gave you away.
So easy it was.

Then the blackness
in your glance narrowed
like a cat's eye in light--
thus to the arrow, its mark:
you were paralyzed
because you were pierced.

As the fluting of glass
resembles water frozen
in falling, this epilogue remains:
a woman waiting for a dress
to slip over her arms,
the rustle of a petticoat,
the rough feel of the net
under the skirt's satin fall
and space enough
in the hem for safety.