Altar of St. Dominic Savio, Turin (Creative Commons)


I perceived your sweetness from your haloed portrait
on the prayer card. The Jesuits in charge of our parish
created an after school club dedicated in your name.

To be aligned with you meant that we might have
a calling; after all, we were eager to hear angelic voices,
and the small white missals we read from, and carried

into Mass, were fragrant with candles and holy water.
The gild edges of the book sent a shiver in me every time
I rubbed my index finger along the glimmer I thought

might have emanated from you. Our vestments, such
as the white surplice we wore, resembled those of altar
boys, although we had red sashes to adorn our slender

waists, making us look like a host of prepubescent martyrs.
Dominic Savio, student of Saint John Bosco, who died
of pleurisy at 14, you were canonized for your heroic virtue.

Your last words to your father were that you had already
forgotten what the parish priest had taught you, but,
oh, what wonderful things you were just beginning to see.

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Evanescence: Selected Poems, Taking Residence, and A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews (Shanti Arts, 2020, 2021, 2022). His poetry and translations have appeared in Asymptote, Chicago Quarterly Review, Commonweal, the Montréal Review, Poetry London, and Rattle.

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Published in the May 3, 2019 issue: View Contents
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