Avila remembers her at nine
running away from home in hopes
of martyrdom by Moors, the quicker to see God,
slipping down dusty streets chanting
para siempre, siempre, siempre,
but scooped up instead by an uncle on horseback,
and her brother Rodrigo, too, muttering,
"La nina made me do it."
Later, her passion for orange dresses
she leaves behind as she flees to the Convent
of the Incarnation. She has always loved her city,
Avila de los Caballeros, a maze of battlements,
nail-studded doors, a fortress overlooking
boulders, plains, and peaks, where winters
are bitter, summer's heat intense.
But in her cell, she writes of rain,
heavenly mansions, candles, windows
streaming light. She scrubs floors at daybreak,
sleeps on beds of straw, and by legend,
dances with tambourines, jingling
in her robes of Carmel.
Toledo 1577. The rapture comes suddenly.
Most embarrassing. God's face one day,
hands the next. She cannot resist. The nuns
gawk during Matins.
She hates the unfriendliness of Seville
to her black veil, white cloak, hemp-soled shoes.
She fears high water at Burgos, large lizards,
despises sickness, hospital food -- cod cakes --
while a new convent awaits.
Holiness and wit survive. Her letters speak
of donkeys, fleas, the merits of barefootedness,
hobgoblins, conversations with the Infinite.
In her breviary at the last:
and naught shall fail thee.
Donna Pucciani has a Ph.D. in Humanities from New York University and has published widely in the U.S. and U.K., including such venues as International Poetry Review, Mid-America Poetry Review, JAMA, Journal of Medical Humanities, Spoon River Poetry, Phoebe, National Catholic Reporter, Hawaii Pacific, and Maryland Poetry Review. She has received awards from the Illinois and Florida State Poetry Societies and the Illinois Arts Council. Her first chapbook, The Other Side of Thunder, is due out in 2006 from Flarestack Publications (U.K.).