Saint Ursula

by Tina Carlson

Turn the ship around
for the holiness
of open water:

your beam and mast,
magnificent. Take girls keening
on the street into your deep
cloak of a sail and set out where

storms of the sea seethe. You believe
in the gods of wind and waves.

The cloistered girls. The men with
raised swords. Slaughter
is a shore where
armies wait, skulls line
the beaches, small lamps
of bone.

What potion brought
you here?

Be prayer, not prey,
in the sea’s convent,
your craft’s wood culled
from royal forests.

Cool the girl’s
fevers with brine,
the heart’s hull
star filled.

What is divinity if not
the horizon where
sun starves into dark?
Seabirds will choir you.

Anoint yourselves with
grit and salt, become
water, uncaptured.
Sainted, you will still
museums. Your
cloak so full of girls, your
bones that smell of almonds.

TINA CARLSON is a New Mexico poet and psychiatric nurse practitioner. She is the author of two previously published volumes of poetry: Ground, Wind, This Body (UNM Press, 2017) which explores the impact of war on a family when the veteran receives no help for trauma, and We Are Meant To Carry Water (3: A Taos Press, 2019) in collaboration with Stella Reed and Katherine DiBella Seluja. This book is an epistolary response, written in persona, to the 2016 US election and won the NM/AZ Book Award for 2020 as best poetry anthology, as well as the 2020 SW Book Design Award for Poetry. Her works have been published in various journals, including SWWIM, Hunger Mountain, Black Mountain Review and Bosque (the magazine). She won second place in Cutthroat Journal‘s Joy Harjo Poetry Contest for her poem “Heaven,” which appears in the spring 2021 edition of that journal.

Featured Art: “Saint Ursula | c. 1583. Oil on panel. 37,2 x 30,5 cm. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin. 1984.52.” Photo by Lluís Ribes Mateu.