Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013), The Good Girl is Always a Ghost (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her work appears in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany Magazine, Salamander, New South, Redivider, PANK Magazine, and elsewhere. She was a 2009 Academy of American Poets Prize recipient, a 2016 Best of the Net winner, and a Barbara Deming Memorial Grant recipient. She currently teaches writing and literature in Boston, MA.
Prophetess in the Act of the Apostles
I can tell you how to take a fist with joy: the secret
is submission. Every prayer I uttered made another false idol
shatter; the figurines bared their cracks like scars,
wood grew stronger to hold a god's weight.
What I am saying is I submitted to everything,
even the tar's bubbles glistened and popped and shaped
steam in the faces of my angels. The emperor's
teeth started to chip from eating too many jewels.
And yet, I was submissive to everyone — I was
submission itself. I bled inferiority and it watered the soil
and the men’s hands withered because they weren't strong
enough to toil it. The night I died, the sunset
astonished like a yolk cracked out of its shell.
The shadows of wolves dissolved and so did mine —
The crickets trilled their orchestra of light.
I started a project of writing poems for female saints very randomly because I was not raised Catholic and I had very little exposure to saints in general: I picked up a children's book about women saints at a bookstore, and I was enchanted by how magical some of the stories were. I plunged into research about some of these saints, in which I learned that many of the older stories were adapted from other mythologies around the world. Furthermore, there was a disturbing pattern that emerged, and the biographies could be boiled down to a general narrative pattern: there's a beautiful girl, she devotes herself to Christ, she's a virgin, and some man gets really upset by that and tries to rape her, kill her, or both. Nearly all of the saints I wrote about were violently executed. It got me thinking about how we inherit these narratives of violence as women, as well as how we define the concept of a "good woman" and how much patriarchal violence we are expected to patiently endure. Therefore, these poems, mostly written as personas, used the myths to speak to a much larger and still present imposition on women. Below is the biography of Saint Hermoine:
Saint Hermione (98-117) Prophetess in the Act of the Apostles
Hermione and her sister set out to meet the apostle John the Theologian, but discovered during their journey that he was dead. They continued their journey and met a disciple of St. Paul's, who taught her Christianity. After an invasion of her village by an army, she was brought before the Emperor and asked to abandon her faith. She refused, and he ordered her beaten in the face for hours, which she endured joyfully, so the Emperor sent her away. Later, another emperor tried to dissuade her from her faith and he ordered her tortured. During her torturing, which included nails hammered into her hands and feet, she had visions of God and guardian angels. Next, they put her in a cauldron of boiling tar, but the heat didn't burn her or affect her. When they removed her, she said she was willing to make a sacrifice to a pagan god, and all of the pagan statues in the temple shattered as they began to pray. The Emperor ordered her beheaded, but the hands of her executioners withered, causing them to beg for God's mercy by allowing them to die. The three of them prayed, and they all died and were granted access to heaven.