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Christina Pugh


Guido Reni, Saint Sebastian (ca. 1630)


Then, Sebastian:
torso phosphorescent
as gills upturned
in foaming light--


his waist white as rabies,
as crusted tundra
and snow mass, the roped
loincloth loosened


from his hips,
and an arrow grown
in the hub of shadow
pooled beneath his rib.


Here, no strung beads,
no bloodstream to clot;
but the pearled husk
passes for a boy’s depth:


a smitten God
preserves those sinews
like fossils, trussing
the divine hide—


and infection’s exiled
to the waters he’s risen from:
pierced and wrung, rinsed
in an afterbirth of storms.