Conjunctions:33 Crossing Over

The Intercession of Saints
The following is an excerpt from Carole Maso’s “The Intercession of Saints” as originally published in Conjunctions:33.
Saints hold a tambourine, a lily, a pomegranate, a flame, a red book, a plum.

A chalice of seawater. The world’s last music. A fire in a stone bowl. A starling. A globe.

Their longing makes a burning sound. Their most precious blood tolls.

A dulcimer. An egg. A basket of plums. A plume of smoke.

The saints marvel. They love nothing more than a miracle or two: the child’s small hand in mine, milk flowing from an open vein, or the covenant made anew each day.

Saints sing like ships sing. Like fog. Like the phases of the moon. Like a mantle of blue. A rhapsody. Saints sing.

They believe in the new covenant of the replaced blood.

A perched village on a platter. A tiny basilica. A ruby casting its jewel tone. Bone ash. Marrow. Cup of mysterious universe.

The temptation to believe is great.

The heart swings like a pendulum toward and then away from God. Toward and then away. Nearer and then farther. The heart’s proximities are two carrier pigeons. Are the message they carry. A logic of wings. A philosophy of light.

Saints with rakes are out harvesting bone marrow while we speak.

Their pure health. Their faith like crazy.

The weight of their sweat more precious than gold.

The saints say: one conquers the temptations of the world through pain.

Saint Agatha under her veil of sorrows. Holding the last handfuls of hair in her hands.

The anesthesia is like dusk: soft, hot, blue, misty. They float through so beautifully now, cradling their symbols.

A scale, a spade, a goose.

The saints in their infinite sweetness renounce the world.

Dancing saints have a lilting charm.

Who could not love Saint Theresa doing her frenzied wedding dance?

She sang like a bird.

Falling into a collapsed time.

Saints hold a head, a sonnet, a tongue. A lily, a pomegranate, an apple, a plum.

Above the crucified Christ a swan and its young.

Saint Francis in his holy hovel.

The Madonna with five angels.

Madame holding a chalice of seawater.

The angel holding Matthew’s inkwell.

Novice saints hold a fragment of flame in their hair.

Saints hold keys, fish, small ships, a rooster, a stone.

Saints hold.

Your body is a heart, an angel flagellated, a wheel, a flame, and darkness.

They visit the hospital in a kind of solidarity. They fall and swoon. They carry little vessels of bone and hope.

Saints sun-bake in the God-light. The job of the soul is to suffer.

Saints hold the flame whole in their perfect hands. Saints can.

I wish I were a bird with a crimson head.
A garden.
His mother’s hair.
The saints hold a staff, a lamb, a feather, the bambino. Or clutch a small bird.

I thought the two weeks of apparitions had ended. The frisson of weeping angels, the thorns in a cup, the ladle of white blood soup, the violations at the grave.

As if the halo were being scissored off, as if the light were being sliced, as if you could take that away from an angel or a person just like that—with a blade.

Voices come, they die away.

You were more precious than song.

The saints carry their regrets. Their 7.5 pound unborn babies each. Their condolences.

Saints suffer down the page. They fall like roses. Pale birds.

On the last rung of the ladder in the seventh house of the Apocalypse.

The saints pierce themselves on swastikas. Smuggle children to the borders. Move to the ends of earthly pain.

Saint Catherine of Siena: one tries not enough.

Saints suffer their way.

In the anesthesia called twilight the saints attempt to defeat time.

Filing by one by one:

Saint Hippolytus torn by horses.
Saint Helena dreaming the Cross, the coat of nails, the road.
Saint John the Baptist and his attributes: a lamb, wings and a honey pot.
Saint Rose of Lirna, too beautiful.
Saint Wencelaus still trudging through the bitterly cold night carrying logs for a poor man’s fire. His footprints in the snow.
Saint Martha with a ladle and keys and a broom.
Saint Hildegarde, pop star, with five hits in the charts.
Saint Appolonia holding a tooth in a pair of pincers.

The hermits and scholars sit quietly in intensive care thinking and brooding. Saint Giles, one of the 14 Holy Helpers holding a chamber pot. Saint Sebastian like a fountain.

Saint Christopher has a rakish charm with his river and flowing staff and arrows and dog’s head.

What up with the dog’s head?

Saints look on bewildered by the weapons of mass destruction.

The dream too often, during sex, or when contemplating God, is the dream of annihilation.

Saint Ava in ecstasy.


After pain a floating feeling comes.

From the open chest in the operating theater birds fly. Soul goes off.

Look closely at the child holding a small bouquet of violets—a sweet offering to the now sutured chest. Taking the heart out. Putting it back in.

Burning. The river is burning. The children are burning.

Saints smolder.

Saints lay their bodies down in front of tanks. War has a boyish charm: Desert Fox, Desert Storm. The saints sigh.

The body turned into a torch. A lantern. A bell.

The heart out.

The saints say one day paradise. They put on their moody Houdini suits and wait.

Carole Maso is the author of ten books, including novels, poems in prose, essays, and a memoir. She is Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University and recipient of the 2018 Berlin Prize.