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Laurie O'Brien

Christina of St. Trond

Brabant, 1150-1225

It may help to think of the things she did as a way
of staying warm, of keeping the body's fire
fanned in an age we have always thought of as cold.
Leaping into the bread oven, her screams
rising and turning with the heady smell of yeast,
no visible burns, no blood, no mark on her skin-
As if this life were not enough to bear,
somehow she thought she had to create on earth
the purgatory she'd been taught to expect.
Yoked, then fed like a dog, then six days in the frigid
waters of the Meuse. Still unscathed, virginal,
milk from her breast a nourishment, an anointment.
Her body was so subtle and light that she walked on dizzy
heights and, like a sparrow, hung suspended
from the topmost branches of the loftiest trees.
What do we make of this, trying to look back,
trying to recapture the chill of a lost millennium?
Christina on a steeple, Mulier Sancta, in a treetop-
Remember, ecstasy has always been possible.

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