The Flower-Crowned Skull of St. Valentine

by Mary Morris

We discover the saint in the reliquary
is also the patron saint of epilepsy.

Beheaded after assisting persecuted martyrs,
often painted with red roses and a rooster,

he performs a wedding, bears a sword,
holds the sun, giving sight to a blind girl.

Examining the scans, my brain appears
like a galaxy—planets, comets—

veins, arteries. More information here
than in the historic heart. Logic and passion.

Memory fields, black holes of loss, cognition,
the central nervous system wired to send messages

such as the love letter I write to you
tucked in the envelope of the parietal lobe.

I think of this as I enter my third year
without seizures, electrical disturbances

dormant for now—their control panel
shorted out as we mail our Valentines,

step into the boat, row toward the future,
slip a wreath, bramble of thorns into water.


Mary Morris has received the Rita Dove Award and is published in The Columbia Review, Prairie Schooner, and Quarterly West.


Filed under Poetry

4 responses to “The Flower-Crowned Skull of St. Valentine

  1. A lovely gift at the end of the year: a poem illuminating gorgeously what connects body and spirit, heart and mind.

  2. Eugène FRANK

    the word sounds are at a pitch that bleaches all affect so only the trill of the verse rings in those little bones, inside a little skull, now at peace

  3. Diane Morris


  4. Such a beautiful and brave glimpse inside your mind, Mary. I admire this poem, its language of heart and mind.

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