The Boiler

Anne Champion

SAINT QUITERIA
Patron Saint of rabies

No woman wants to be your average bitch—
like my mother, spouting out nine girls at once
like a common sow. She ordered us drowned,
her nuisance litter of kittens, and we learned

how easy it is for a girl to transform to damsel.
Forget what you know about rescue: in the village,
our cribs were lined with straw and we figured out
how to resist pricks, we measured time in infant howls

that bladed silent loneliness. We wrenched
out blunted teeth and grew fangs, we held our breath
under water until anger turned to foam,
bubbling from our lips and eclipsing our beauty,

until the water split like a shell, and we emerged,
anew, hysteric glittering. Why am I a saint?
Because I died a virgin? Because rabid dogs
fell into a hypnosis listening to my sighs?

I want to be remembered for my sisters:
we knew that sisterhood banded together
can trounce an entire empire. We caught
our heads in our hands when they cleaved

them from our bodies. We reincarnated
as sea monsters. We’re the only protection
you need from wild beasts—
just tell us we’ll finally get what we demand.


SAINT CHRISTINA THE ASTONISHING

Patron Saint of Millers, those suffering from mental illness, and mental health workers

Christina embodied everything she witnessed, how leaves
turned riotous and kaleidoscopic in the fall, how they heaved

themselves from the arthritic clutch of branches, abandoning
the bark, so that it stands exposed and ruinous in winter.

Christina presented her first astonishment
like a magician’s assistant, sawed in half and miraculously

standing whole, only Christina died
and came back, levitating up to the rafters

of the cathedral, pleading, God, my senses
can’t cope with the stench of so much rotting sin.

Every seizure was a pipeline to the mystical,
and Christina saw nothing but suffering,

so she made a purgatory of her stay on earth,
tossing herself into furnaces, heaving herself

into the vortex of frozen man-made currents
churned by mills. Penance, she preached,

you must suffer your contrition. Christina knew
what every woman knows but can’t say:

at her birth, there was a theft,
and the world is worse with every girl that’s delivered

into it—we can never apologize enough
for what we’ve done in doing nothing at all.


Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work appears in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany Magazine, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient. She currently teaches writing and literature in Boston, MA. http://anne-champion.com