Author’s note: St. Agnes was an early Christian martyr, killed at age 13 for her refusal to marry. She is the patron saint of young girls, chastity and rape survivors.

Tucked behind the couch, age 10,
I would take down the gilded book and
spend an hour gazing upon your sweet eyes,
the curve of your cheek, brushed
by coils of lamb’s wool. A pull inexplicable,
yet I swore I would take your name one day.
I didn’t. When the time came to approach
the bishop and accept the oils, I couldn’t
defend it. I had already lost my voice.
When I first remembered the tale
of those pages, I could only manage a bitter
laugh. Resolute in your purity, you held firm
despite unwanted advances. You died,
went safe into the arms of a God who loved
you. I know, because He blinded the dozens
who sought to stain you. Most days, I envied
you His favor. More, I envied your certainty
that you could go home. Even now, my skin
itches. God, I am so tired of waiting…
Only later did I learn that some legends,
ones they would not give to a child,
say they held you down. God watched.
You endured.
It is this image of you I came for. I am late.
I can see your spires, but I cannot go inside.
Still, you are the only one who could call me
home. I am almost certain you wavered too.
With lives like yours and mine, faith in
one that watches cannot help but itch.
I want to peel off my skin, like lamb’s wool.
Instead, with your blessing, I will go in.
Relearn my voice. And sing.