Bad saints

I was taught suffering is another name for holy;

that the beautiful flames of pleasure always sing

like birds before you enter them and are

consumed. Therefore, they said, think of the saints

whose bare feet bore the brand of hot coals, of Agatha

whose nipples glowed like the tiniest of nectarines

between pincers in Sebastiano del Piombo’s mural

depicting her martyrdom. And good Lord, doesn’t it

disturb you that so many of these stories involve

the torture of women because they won’t surrender

their virginity? It’s not about birds or pleasure,

fire, death by beheading. What’s so terrifying

about refusing to be pried open, about declaring

that the body and its solitudes are self-sufficient?

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