A Poem by Michael Donaghy
Irena of Alexandria
by Michael Donaghy
Creator, thank You for humbling me.
Creator, who twice empowered me to change
a jackal to a saucer of milk,
a cloud of gnats into a chandelier,
and once, before the emperor’s astrologers,
a nice distinction into an accordion,
and back again, thank You
for choosing Irena to eclipse me.
She changed a loaf of bread into a loaf of bread,
caused a river to flow downstream,
left the leper to limp home grinning and leprous,
because, the bishops say, Your will burns
bright about her as a flame about a wick.
Thank You, Creator, for taking the crowds away.
Not even the blind come here now.
I have one bowl, a stream too cold to squat in,
and the patience of a saint. Peace be,
in the meantime, upon her. And youth.
May sparrows continue to litter her shoulders,
children carpet her footsteps in lavender,
and may her martyrdom be beautiful and slow.
Colm Tóibín reproduced this poem in Brick Magazine, where he describes how it came into his hands. Michael Donaghy died in 2004 at the age of fifty. You can listen to him reading some of his poems at The Poetry Archive.