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My Lost Saints, a poem by Mary Redman

My Lost Saints
by Mary Redman

Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes, waits
in my shoulder bag. His ceramic image clothed
in robes of cream and green, a walking staff in one hand,
a frozen flame affixed to his forehead.

I pull his five-inch likeness from its nest of tissues, lipstick,
and chewing gum, turn him over to pull a coiled paper slip
from his hollow insides, inscribed with the carefree wish
of a sixteen-year-old girl. I’ve come to trade that wish
for a prayer—I whisper a bargain to God and Jude—
to spare my father’s life.

A nurse beckons. I follow past the waiting room chairs
to his dim bedside—alone, perhaps to say farewell.
Fear wells. Here my childhood’s potent guardian lies
powerless, enmeshed in a network of tubes and wires,
pinned against a white hospital bed, set at an obtuse
angle for his comfort, or the nurses’ convenience.

His looks betray unthinkable pain, little awareness
of my presence. Eyes ringed in shadow, half-shut
by sleep and drugs, he stares dazed from a putty-colored face,
and mumbles through dry lips meaningless sounds. I wonder
what to say and swallow panic. As he struggles, insect-like,

he stretches gray lips, chapped and tight, tries to speak again.
Don’t cry, I tell myself as I clutch the figure of St. Jude. Finding it
a lifeless object made of clay, I turn to leave the room and drop
the figure, wish, and prayer in a wastebasket near the door.

About Mary Redman: She is a retired high school English teacher who currently supervises student teachers for two local universities. She is an active member of the Indiana Writers Center and has taken classes with the current Indiana Poet Laureate, Shari Wagner, and with poet Kyle Craig. She has had poems published in Flying Island and participated during 2016-17 in the fifth Religion, Spirituality and the Arts, an interdisciplinary arts seminar directed by Rabbi Sandy Sasso. Mary also volunteers as a docent at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and has volunteered as a Starfish Initiative mentor for the past four years.