Praying to the saints

Look at what money can buy, father
quipped, as I shrugged my shoulders

into my good suit jacket, slid
my feet into pumps, and got ready

to go to work. The two older children
were in school, the baby was with

her nanny. I made a mental note to stop
at the store for diapers before returning

home at five. Father was retired nearly
a decade then; and of poor health. He stayed

at home reading the paper in the corner
armchair, taking out his Novena to Saint

Pancratius and murmuring prayers with eyes
half-closed to this patron of children, jobs,

health, cramps, perjury, and headaches—
though you could say Pancras himself never

recovered from the last big headache
of his young life, having been beheaded

around 303 AD during the reign of the Emperor
Diocletian. As for diapers, I never made it

to the store that afternoon— An earthquake
rocked the city and it felt like any moment

the skies might part and we’d see the Four
Horsemen, lances drawn, come down into our

hills on vivid clouds of fire. In mere minutes,
buildings turned to rubble, walls into piles

of kindling. If anyone had known to pray
to Saint Emydius or Saint Gregory

the Wonderworker, patrons for protection
against earthquakes and floods, could that

day’s catastrophe have been averted? Two
weeks later, father passed away on a makeshift

pallet in the local hospital. Stories have it
that Emydius, though he was a bishop, was also

beheaded in that same period of persecution
that ended 14-year-old Pancratius’s life.

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