The Starving Saint
Encased in silver, the feet of the saint
crack and splinter in the first hard frost.
His miracle was this: during a starving season,
to eat the red berries of the yew, to bite through
the bitter, poisonous seeds and live. It was then
the first waxwings arrived, an unruly fluttering.
When he raised his arms, they startled aloft;
when he lowered his eyes, they settled.
He learned the pitch of their thin lisps,
carving his own flute from a low branch.
Returning to his village, with his throat
now closed to human speech, his legend grew
as the man who sang the language of birds,
who never ate more than a handful
of grain and a slice of over-ripened fruit.
He took to planting yew seeds, nursing saplings.
Inside his shoes, the bones of his toes took on
the shape of talons. Years later on his death,
those gnarled feet were taken as a sign,
sawed off in reverence and enshrined.
Sandy Longhorn is the author of Blood Almanac, which won the 2005 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. New poems are forthcoming or have appeared recently in Anti-, The Collagist, Lake Effect, New South, Spillway, and elsewhere. Longhorn lives in Little Rock, AR, is an Arkansas Arts Council fellow, and blogs at Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty.
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