the life of St. Sozon: a retelling

his oratory the high wide lands, stone and thin soil in
the broad neolithic scape, scrubbed and sky dried.
the heavens were closer there, thinner air, a world’s distance
from the city-god drenched plain hard by
the corrupting sea, the malarial reaches of power.
in hand his shepherd’s crook, passed down
from one hand to another a thousand generations,
memory accumulating like the mounded tepes,
lately transformed into a cruciform shape.
so he spoke to his God,
reading the words of the holy Book in the land,
his flock spread out before him—wisdom! let us attend.
he wept that he could not be
more akin to the creatures under his care,
heart burning with the great merciful weight of things.
closing his eyes under the sheltering tree,
Sozon the friend of God looked
inward, was shown what would come to be:
a martyr’s death awful to the telling, and
a holy spring welling up at his feet, for the ages,
watering the earth with his blood and with water.
his spirit spread into the dolomitic cracks,
up surged the water cold, mixed with blessing.
dream and the mothering earth’s pure drink,
portal and vision and life,
the Cross tossed in the charging waters.
he picked up his shepherd’s crook and set out.
down from his hard and rough untilled garden,
leaving his sheep in the care of another,
down to the city and its viscous charms,
exquisite violence and offal piles.
up against the vain rage
he came, and with his staff struck down
the graven gold in the thronging temple,
burst it into a thousand pieces,
a fine loot and bold, gathered up,
and gave it to the city’s poor. the roman concreted
places rang out with the challenge, and the answer
was iron against flesh, the singe of the sword, and then
death upon a tree.
still blood lusting and even more so full of fear,
they dragged his holy flesh out to the edge of the city,
lit a fire, in unknowing sign of the cataclysm to come,
but the sky mocked them, the elements
overpowered the small weak weaponed men,
storm washed over them and washed out their flame.
time and distance condensed in him,
the heavens stayed their small fires, a greater flame
burned still in his several parts, hot and holy.
water, and blood, and the venerable body marked
with the pain and the dislocation, set to earth,
and still he shepherds us, drawn from the old soil,
cut from the new cloth of salvation, old wine
mingled with the new. Blessed Sozon,
pray God for us, send us out from the unabiding city,
and lay your staff against the idols yet.
the wild old lands wait a returning.

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