On Suffering

Somewhere in a city filled 
with spires, in a cathedral left
of the square, is a smaller chapel
with the statue of a wild boar
and a painting of the Virgin with seven
lances stuck in her heart. This must be
extremely painful, and yet she looks up
toward the ceiling, or the sky, or heaven
as though her sorrows have lifted her
to a weirdly tranquil space beyond everyday
understanding. And somewhere in another city
is a very old street which bears the name
of suffering, because a bishop was
decapitated there on the way to becoming
a saint. A famous writer used it
as the setting for a story about a lost
necklace: his two characters coming home
from a ball scour every inch of the street
in the cold pall of morning, then
surrender to a life of penury— and they
must bear it, for is there any other recourse?
Which only goes to show how the saintly are not
so different after all from the rest of us
merely trying to make it from day to day:
they love their children so much
though they know their hearts will be
irremediably broken. They go into the streets,
speaking of what they believe. They give in
to a bit of desire, wanting to feel, even
for a few hours, the gleam of something
extraordinary around their necks.


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