Thursday, November 17, 2011

Munditia, Patron Saint of Lonely Women

(St. Peter’s Church, Munich)

She is believed to have been martyred in 310 A.D., beheaded 
with a hatchet. Once kept hidden in a wooden box,
she was put on display in 1883. Each year, a feast day is held
in her honor complete with a High Mass and candle procession
on November 17th.

for M.K.

She was propped up one day
in a black-and-silver sepulcher
with an eternal glass view,
her vest sewn with gaudy charms,
her gloved hands clutching a chalice
half-filled with sand
and a long golden feather.

How difficult to look at those eyes,
fixed in a perpetual stare mocking death,
at her stone-studded skeleton
encased in glass, and to think
about her estranged life,
a lifetime devoted to Christ, her ex-lover,
and how you said:
"Poor, pitiful woman cheated by faith
and her celibate single-mindedness."

And then to imagine that someone
could bejewel her, knowing all along
that her most precious gem,
her locus of power,
had rotted away to bone
where "even from the tomb
the voice of nature cries."

“Munditia, Patron Saint of Lonely Women” was originally published in Willow Review, 1992.
“Munditia, Patron Saint of Lonely Women” also received awards from Willow Review and Poet Magazine in 1992.


  1. Your poem has deeper meanings for baggage encumbered ex-Catholics of a certain age and ethnic heritage. At least it does to me.

    Thirty years ago my wife and I toured and embraced Italy. For several hours one day I was truly depressed. In the Church of the Capuchins in Rome, which was open all day during a holy day, we curiously entered the bone encrusted tomb/church/monastery expecting a glimpse into a medieval site and state of mind.
    The photos on this link are bright and colorful. The actual small amount of daylight that inadvertently seeps in and the few clusters of candles in this tank-cellar made everything a gun-metal gray encrusted with the filth and grime of intentional mortification. Imagine Lincoln logs, Lego's and Tinker Toys made of femurs, skulls and pelvic bones with a few rusty nails splintering through nameless skeletal piles. Weird shit. Dank surrounded us.
    This was not the depressing part.
    This freakish Italian pre-Disney sideshow of St. Bubba of Mississippi di Roma, Patron Saint of Disease, Torture and Death Row, was simply disgusting in its perpetual Halloween attempts to creep you out while begging for promissory indulgence donations.
    The actual depressing aspect was caused by some of the living people in that architomb. They wept and pawed at the objects and altars in quasi-ecstasy and depressive fetishist religious quiver. These pathetic human decaying structures of faith were too, too much for an inquisitive, art loving, history hunting, innocent abroad with his beautiful wife to tolerate for even one minute longer.
    We escaped and wandered around until we came to our senses and found a terrific little gelato street vendor. Thus refreshed and upheld in our freshly sugar-girded loins we pursued the beauties and wonders of Rome in its eternal pleasure-domed glory.
    Nice city!
    - Ken

  2. I spent my summer in Europe. I took this photo on August 14, 1976.