Two Poems

by Maximillian Gill

Max writes: I have just graduated with an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Jose State University where I received awards for poetry and fiction. The two poems are from my Master's Thesis, which consists of a collection of pieces based on Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints.

"St. Eutropius" -- "St. John Gualbert"

St. Eutropius

"I came to the town when the farmlands were packed hard with frost.
They yelled, threw cans and chased me away when I tried to teach them of
God. I left by the main road while the tractors hummed and churned up
clouds of yellow chaff. By a peach orchard I found a flat rock to sit
on. Eustella visits me when she can get away from her father.
Cross-legged amid the dark peels of rotted fruit, she questions me about
heaven and Christ. When she leaves, I force my concentration on the
life of my spirit until the hanging globes of fruit melt from my sight
and nothing of their heavy bruised scent remains."

Eustella's father holds a gold watch on a chain.
The butcher rubs the moist lumps
of blood and bone from his white sleeves.
Metal saws whir, racked meat slides on rails.
"By this tomorrow let it be done."
Eutropius's fingers are folded together,
his robe dangles over the rock's gray sides
as two men emerge from the orchard.
Eustella found him dead with his skull split by an axe.

"Dear Eustella, they come for me the way they always come, not knowing
that I am the rock that emerges from the earth and they are just the
stench of the decaying. I know you'll cry when you find me, for I've
felt love from you on the afternoons you got up shaking leaves from your
hair, but then I would sit and will your feelings into the peaches
rotting in the dirt. You must not suffer my loss the way you feel the
distance of God, and you must not bear me to burial as tightly as you
hold the Holy Spirit. Love only the eternal, Eustella. All that can
fade must fade from you."

St. John Gualbert

"I remember needing nothing but wine that morning. I sat cutting
notches in the broken barrel cask in our yard when my father came out.
'Watch over him when he goes to town today. He has insulted a man he
shouldn't have.' 'He's a fool,' I said. 'He's your brother.' I sat by
him in his favorite cafe. He drank until he could laugh with the woman
who had a flame stitched over her breast. I thought I knew the man in
the corner, his thin moustache and dark gray scarf. In the small yard
in the back I lit a cigarette and stared at a lone tree on a hilltop. A
woman screamed before the butt-end stopped smoldering. I found my
brother clutching his neck, trying to block the blood seeping out
between his fingers."

John sleeps in a cot in his father's vineyard.
Cigarettes emptied, thrown in the plow rows.
He lights a cluster of dry vines and leaves,
watches it shrivel to burnt-black.
"I will not return to my father's house
until that murderer is dead."
Bus rides to other villages, whiskey
and banknotes passed to grubby hands.
One day he came upon the murderer.

"I clubbed him with a wood mallet. He fell unconscious in the runny
gutter in the alley. I unwrapped his scarf and put the edge of my knife
to his throat but looked away when I should have cut, looked and saw a
man with spread arms on the alley's dead-end wall. 'Forgive them,
father,' he said. Then he was no more, only obscene words painted and
scratched on the wall. The murderer's eyes were shut, I felt the blood
matted in his hair, the moon's burning orange drifted across the gutter
water, and I couldn't force the blade into the skin. I saw my brother
crying for his running blood, the face against the word-wall, and a
murderer waiting in his beating veins. When he awoke, he saw the knife
on the ground. His eyes upon me, his eyes back to the knife, his
fingers finding the handle, blade held to my neck. 'Do it if you find
it so easy,' I said. 'I share his blood with you.' A fist in my mouth,
a kick into my stomach--I collapsed in a dark pain spiral."

The monastery doors open at first light.
A thin man in robe finds John
on the steps, bruised skin, bleeding cuts,
groans, an eye trying to open from its swelling.
The man's hands, large and covering,
wrapped around John's head. Another man helps
to pull him inside the doors. The third
pours a water bucket on the steps
to splash away the pooled blood.

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