Heathen Saint

Poem #4 of the 30/30 challenge, National Poetry Month

Heathen Saint

What of a heathen saint,
a woman whose actions lack
covert motives, a guardian of
goodness, a paladin of such purity
even snow cringes at the comparison?

She was neither nun nor pastor nor
preacher, did not even believe in God,
so spent her Sunday mornings away from
hymnals and flowers and the sound of
uplifting worshipful organ music.

But she believed fervently in people,
so she toiled on Sundays, like every day,
to repair the detritus of the night before,
the shrapnel of broken dreams and abandoned
hopes and children left to fend for themselves
while parents offered delirious sacraments
to suicidal addictions and personal demons.

Some think Sunday mornings unsuited
to the stench of cigarettes, stale beer, and
cheap whiskey, that odors of night sweats,
urine, and fear have no place on Sunday,
a day some set aside for reflection.

But she believed in people and that
she could make a difference every day.
She fought dogma that traded the
fragrance of drunks in church
pews on off-days for a meal
and a soft place for their heads;
she asked for no quid pro quo.

She traded safety for relevance and
comfort for concern, leaving herself
open to the consequences of compassion.
The world was a better place with her,
and remains so now, without her.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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