Posted tagged ‘Saint Agatha’

Passive Aggression (Agatha)–Trireme Sonnet

March 2, 2013

Saint Agatha (Orazio Riminaldi) (1625)

Passive Aggression (Agatha)

Some postulate revenge, but martyrdom,
I’ve found, gives precious little payback.
Take Saint Agatha.  After she survived
the lop-off of both breasts, she served ‘em
on a silver salver where, in no way slack,
though on their lonesomes, they shone, while she, revived
seemingly, smiled, a mix of peace and purr-dom.

She managed next a hot coal lay-back,
which somehow birthed an earthquake.  Enemies writhed!
Still, she died.  In prison.  So, in that kingdom,
did those who did the chest thing – that awe-full whack
(though not, perhaps, in jail).  The point derived:
forget all bets on tectonic overdrive–
settle for a smile that lifts up bright breasts lithe.


The above poem is a “trireme” sonnet (a form developed by the great sonneteer Samuel Peralta a/k/a Semaphore), which uses a rhyme scheme based on tercets.  I’ve used a kind of slant rhyme, I guess.  Sam writes about the form for dVerse Poets Pub.

Above and below are paintings of  Saint Agatha.  Yes, the story is absolute horrific.  She had her breasts cut first, I believe, as a punishment for resisting sexual blandishment (i.e. assault) and after surviving that, was  rolled on hot coals.  This  promptly caused an earthquake, killing, as the poem says, some of her enemies.  (Not all apparently since she still died later in prison.)  You know, I realize this story may resonate in a particularly awful way today, given medical treatments – and I’m sorry if it seems terribly insensitive.  I really was thinking about the traditions of (i) martyrdom (on almost a personal level) and (ii) European painting – I’m really sorry if it comes across as upsetting or casual.   When you are doing something like a sonnet, I find that they take directions you didn’t always intend.


Have a great weekend.


Francisco de Zurbaran, 1598 – 1664, Saint Agatha

Plan for the New Year! Less Martyrdom! (I’m Realistic.)

December 31, 2009

St. Lucie (Francesco Beda) (1521)

It’s terrible to be a martyr.  I’m not referring to someone like Saint Lucie depicted above with her eyeballs on a platter, or Saint Agatha, shown below, with the lopped-off breasts on a platter.  (Renaissance painters of saints seemed to really like platters.   And breasts.)

No, what I’m talking about is a self-professed and not completely willing martyr of a modern woman or man who, like me, bites off more than she or he can chew with the expectation/hope/desperate wish that someone will swoop to the rescue, and, for example, unasked, grab the six bags of groceries dangling from the martyr’s wrists,  carry said groceries home, and, while unpacking them, clean out the fridge.  (But quietly.  Any cleaning out of the fridge must be done in a manner that expresses no criticism of any stale, moldy, or long-expired food neglected by said self-professed martyr on said refrigerator shelves for the last twelve to eighteen months.)

I should note that I am discussing martyrs here in preemptive self-defense.  My original plan for this blog was to list several things I wish I’d said less often in 2009, and several  things I wish I’d said more often;  what I then scrawled down were some incredibly whiney and selfish-sounding phrases.  This process led me to come up with a resolution for 2010, which is simply to be less of a martyr; that is, to stop agreeing to things, or at least quite so many things, that are not really so agreeable, and to stop waiting for outside rescue; to stop being so squeezed in other words.  (News alert to ManicDDaily:  it is extremely unlikely that your boss will ever tell you to go home early so that you can write a better blog!)

While this resolution sounds a bit solipsistic, my hope is that it will actually lead to more  robust generosity. (You’ll notice that both Saint Lucy and Saint Agatha are not painted as squeezed, wizened, or anguished, but as fulsome, buxom, peaceful.   I take this as meaning that it is better to make a direct, clear and intentional sacrifice, than to feel endlessly chipped away.)

So, keeping the big anti-martyrdom resolution in mind, here are the whiny lists:

Six Things I Wish I’d said Less Often in 2009

1.  “I’ll get that to you tomorrow at the latest.”

2.  “Don’t bother.  I can handle it myself.”

3.  “Let me pay.”  (Again!)

4.  “I don’t really eat sweets.”

5.  “You take it.”

6.  “I’m sorry.”

Six Things I Wish I’d said More Often in 2009

1.  “I won’t be able to get that to you till the end of the week at the earliest.”

2.   “I’d love some help.”

3.  “If you insist.”

4.  “Yum.”

5.  “Why don’t we split it?”

6.    “I’m sorry.”

I’m not going to be able to do without No. 6, the apology.  However, while the apologies of the martyr sometimes seem ubiquitous,  they are, in fact, conspicuously tardy, or even absent when the martyr is truly at fault.  (It is really hard for martyrs to ever acknowledge being truly at fault.)    So, I guess what I’m aiming for is a shift in the depth of the apology.  (Maybe a better word is self-awareness.  Hmm….)

At any rate, have a very happy new year!   Thanks so much for reading!  And keep your eyes on/off the platter!

Saint Agatha (Orazio Riminaldi) (1625)

(P.S.) Note that I say “less martyrdom” and not “no more martyrdom.”  Ha!