Tiana Nobile

St. Rose of Lima
March 20, 2020 Nobile Tiana

St. Rose of Lima


Lips weary with chapped hallelujahs,
you went to church and learned the power
of patience. You used to sit in the pew


and wonder how long it would take before your tears
would turn to blood, how many prayers
you must memorize to be worthy


of that kind of miracle.
Stained glass windows glowed
multicolored portraits of a woman


in prayer. Rose was your patron saint.
While writing this poem you discover
she’s the protector of florists,


embroiderers, and “people ridiculed
or misunderstood for their piety.”
Your brother’s laughter rings out


from across the kitchen table
all these years later. No one ever asked
why your hair was falling out.


While you pretended not to notice
the bald spot on your scalp, you collected
the strands of hair and fashioned them


into crosses. In school you learned Lima
is a city in South America,
but all you could think about was her forehead


wrapped with spikes, her waist weighed down
by an iron chain. She made her bed with broken glass
and stone. The thought of her locking the door


and burning her hands burned like a looping film
on the inside of your eyelids.
You knelt at the cross and kept your hands


in your pockets, pricking your thumb against
the thorn you found in the garden.
For years, you slept on the floor


of your little sister’s bedroom
afraid to talk to the darkness alone.
You asked god for a new


mattress. Nightmares shattered you
like mirrors. You turned the lights off
and on and off and on and off and on.


Isn’t this the cost of being alive?
You challenge yourself.
You rock yourself to sleep.

Tiana Nobile lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Kundiman fellow, and a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award. A finalist of the National Poetry Series and Kundiman Poetry Prize, her writing has appeared in Poetry Northwest, The New Republic, Guernica, and the Texas Review, among others. Her full-length poetry debut, Cleave, is forthcoming in Spring 2021 by Hub City Press. For more, visit www.tiananobile.com