The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Michael H. Lythgoe


The art of suffering: a figure bristling with arrows;
Martyr popular with Renaissance painters,
Including El Greco & Menageo--more Rococo.
Sebastian survived, recovered, returned to preach.

Son of a wealthy Roman family, Milan
Educated, he became an officer of the Imperial
Roman Army, captain of the guard, Diocletian's
Favorite; but also a Christian convert & a healer

Of the wife of a brother soldier. Charged as a Christian,
Sebastian is the figure tied, like Christ was nailed,
To a tree. Mauretanian archers pierced him; Sebastian
Was healed by the widow St. Irene, but, finally, clubbed.

Such a model--a soldier, a healer, himself healed;
His relics in part are at St. Medard at Soissons.
St. Ambrose told his story first; martyr's fate revealed.
in paintings, beauty, piety, spirit are more symbols than blood.

Saint Sebastian Way is the address of healers,
Men & women of medicine, physicians at the intersection
With Walton Way. Saint Sebastian: son's protector;
Black Death cures; patron of archers; confirmation name.


    (for Louise)

Sinners on the edge can never wait, yet I wait, so late
To pray. I could celebrate the lavender myrtles, the crepes;
The white magnolia buds and blooms; the sweet gardenia
Garden's perfume; sunrise on wisteria.
I procrastinate before broken bone, shattered knee cap.
Like Robert Redford--leading paratroopers: A Bridge Too Far,
Paddling his rubber boat across the river--repeating "Hail Mary,
Full of grace, Hail Mary, full of grace . . . ." it's my fate to break
At the gate. "Outrageous" Barbaro--Plimlico favorite--Derby Winner
Snaps an ankle, breaks bones--quick jockey--Prado--dismounts
Saves the colt, the leg, not too late--just in time to bear the weight.
Her leg is human; surgeon straightens it, implants new joint, staples
The skin with stainless steel. I pray for her to heal; never too late
For faith, nor to put in 27 pins & learn: living in pain is not a race.


Your wound is very American;
By an American veteran surgeon,
A West Point man--the best--say those with knees
New in PT. Your swollen leg looked like deer skin,
Tan from trauma. You did not want to see
When we changed the bandage; I say well-healed.
I do not say it looks like barbed wire,
A brand burned in your skin, a trail up a hill:
25 silver staples. Free the wire from scab with pliers;
You want free--to ramble on open range, like roaming
Tribes on prairies; painful seasons, bison migrating.
You joked about being the Tin Man, squeaking.
We hear talk of immigration. History is rustling, fences
Along Southwestern borders. Scarecrow dancing in Kansas.


There is talk today of REHAB; days of post-op exercises
Before you can come home safely. I call it Football Camp.
No pain. No gain. PT. Bend the new cobalt knee and let out
The perfect scream. Your friend with her new hip knows the drill.
She visits to bring you gifts and trade the pain in stories.
Since she is a nurse herself, she knows what's in your plastic
Bag, what stings the wound, drips to ease the pain, jello menu,
(order a tuna fish sandwich, she says), stool softeners,
The catheter. She always liked your shoes. Have a goal,
She says, plan a trip with a pair of new shoes. You doze.
I slip away to lunch on crab cakes and eye tropical fish
Relaxing, swimming behind the glass near the bar. Visit
The Art Museum next. Lo and behold a new painting is a sign,
A good omen: Margaret Murphy's "Polishing Shoes" in watercolors.
I walk to St. Sebastian Way along the levee above the river in Augusta;
Soon you will walk with me, in promenade, with a new knee, new shoes.


You have set out like Dorothy on a yellow
Brick road to the Emerald City of full mobility.
The road to recovery is a long road; you could wallow
In another Pity Party. Not today. Today no pity.
You bent your Tin Man's joint to show the surgeon
Who fixed your cobalt new knee to old bone;
He was pleased with your oiled creaking; so nurses
Will pull silver staples out with small pliers; no curses--
Just a Latina crying out as you squeeze my hand--
Like take-offs and landings. Brave as Cowardly Lion,
You conquer fear as each rung of the ladder is cut
Moving up the hill over your knee. You have heart--
Like the Scarecrow all stitched up to keep in stuffing,
Enabling you like those red shoes to begin skipping.

Copyright 2006-7 by Cook Communication