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Lay for the Day
7th March

The feast of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, who were martyred in Carthage in AD203, finally despatched by having their throats cut after a mad heifer had been set loose on them for the entertainment of the crowd. Perpetua was a young married woman, 22 years old, and Felicity was her slave. A long and detailed account of their imprisonment and martyrdom, during which they made many converts, was one of the most popular texts of early Christianity.
Saint Felicity became a patron for women who want children. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest, and she was afraid that she would not be able to share in the martyrdom of her comrades, since Roman law forbade the execution of expectant women. After earnest prayers, she was delivered of her child two days before the games at which they were to die.

Claire Cries

I thought she’d take my life
or break my mind
with pain of her barging
a way from me.

The blood flowed down beneath,
no shriek sufficed
her, whose conquering head
lies on my breast.

Her satisfaction’s brief
but all of peace
for a while. My blue veins
run to feed her.

Wet petal lips pushed out,
no words, no smile,
know nothing but my own
clay-dark nipple.

This tiny head as frail
as a snowdrop
trembling in icy wind,
green flame through ice;

this tiny head the creased
seed of mountains,
opens, sucks in the world,
lets its cry out.

John Gibbens
from Characters: One Life

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

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