Issa M. Lewis is a graduate of New England College’s Poetry MFA program. She was the 2013 recipient of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize. Her poems have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Tule Review, Jabberwock, Prairie Wolf Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Pearl. She lives in West Michigan.
The Catacomb Saints
Never mind who you were—
you may have worn rags soiled with sweat
and blood. Maybe they barely covered
your body and you tugged the unfinished hems
up or down to salvage your dignity
as you were dragged through the tunnel.
The archway ahead of you roared light
so you closed your eyes and whispered
When you awoke, you were bones
and gold. Heaven was darker than you thought
it would be, full of echoes of dripping water.
Strings of light crept in from cracks above
like golden ribbons keeping your skeleton intact.
Every piece of you glittered and clinked,
rings on every finger. You held chalices and swords,
an underground king ruling over rats.
Who you are now is faded and brittle
as old paper. The sapphires in your eyes dulled
a hundred years ago, when people stopped looking
beyond the bones, when they could no longer imagine
your face not encrusted with gold.