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Symeon Stylites the Elder

Monday, 23 November, 2015

He tossed the shapeless piece of bread,
he tossed it, straight into the sand.
The pilgrim looked at him surprised,
Symeon looked back,
“I hate your bread
I’ve never hated it so much.”
The pilgrim didn’t say a word,
he drank the milk
ate the bread
and left the man alone.

Symeon doesn’t want to eat,
his stomach pure as the heart of a goat.
Symeon: that’s the name his mother chose.
He doesn’t want to eat,
as before he was born.

“Why mama? Why did they want me to leave?”
He still remembers that day
when his mother said:
“They didn’t like your belt of thorns.
Don’t cry, my dear, be good.”
“But it was God!
He asked me
to wear it every day.”
“Maybe it’s just
that you are not made
to live the way they do.”

Symeon
was asked to leave
his beloved monastery
at a very young age
when all his teeth were
in the right spot
and his skin was elastic
as plastic lace.

Symeon doesn’t want to live
the way everybody does.
Symeon: that’s the name his mother chose.
He doesn’t want to live,
as before he was born.

His father was a shepherd
he came from
the North.
Symeon used to sleep
between the furs
of two warm goats.
But one day
he went to his mother
who was standing quiet and still.
He said,
“Mama, you know what?
I’ll live in a hut
and swallow solitude
to the gills.
I’ll spend my days
coiled up in prayer
till all my sins
have washed away.”

Symeon doesn’t want to speak
because words are full of snares.
Symeon: that’s the name his mother chose.
He doesn’t want to speak,
as before he lived on Earth.

One year passed,
and another half with it.
One morning
Symeon woke up
happy as a fish.
He stepped outside the hut
ready for a new life:
He felt clean
and neat.

Walking down the path
he came across a house in flames.
“Goddamn,” he said,
“Now I remember:
I’m still a man
and Symeon
is still my name.”

Symeon doesn’t want to have a name
because names are the original sin.
He damns the day his mother chose to give him one.
No name for Symeon,
as before being her son.

“Let me breathe, let me breathe.”
He moved into a cave
to give his lungs
some respite from the crowd
and from the human race.
But everybody heard
of a miraculous monk.
“I swear,” his father said,
“he feeds himself
only on God’s bunk.”
A flock of aspiring saints
soon found his hidden hole
they started to beg him
Night and day,
“Teach us, teach us
we want to do the same.”

Symeon doesn’t want to be
a monk, a saint, or a human being.
Symeon: that’s the name his mother chose.
He doesn’t want to be,
as before he was born.

The last crust
of daylight
was eaten by Night,
and tossed away,
when Symeon went home
and found his mother,
on her knees, praying.
“Mama, you know what?
I’ll move further than the sun,
in the desert of Kozan!
No one will find me there.”

He climbed mountains
he dived into turquoise lakes
but still he dragged
on his tail
ten pilgrims
like a wedding train.

“Why are you following me?”
he shouted with popping eyes.
“I’ve nothing,
nothing more to say!”
He started running
and hid behind a column,
the only one that time had spared
of a temple, once solemn.

“That’s the answer,”
he whispered to himself.
“I’ll live up there
so even the tallest man
could not pull
the ends of my hair.”
And so he climbed.
and once on the top,
he finally slept.

Oh, good Symeon
now old
glass skeleton
copper beard.
That happened
37 years ago.
Now your brain
is in God’s paws.
You don’t remember
how to pray,
you just get lost
in your memories.

For many years
you had to hear
all your followers
confess their fears.
You did it every day,
from 5pm to 8.
Now you cannot
hold the weight
of all the Christians,
their complaints.

You used to pray
tall on your feet
a cross
in the middle of the desert.
No longer young
your scales are dry,
you, tired angelfish
you, mama’s pride.
Slender as Winter
God can easily count,
vertebrae by vertebrae,
the bones of your back,
bowed.

Old Symeon
you try to mourn
your mother’s death on a November day.
Your heart, an over sucked lollypop
you can’t be sad
you have no name.

A traveller found a body,
that’s what they say.
A body on a tall pillar
all coiled up in prayer.
Symeon never jumped off
his private nest.

I’m waiting for an old friend
he’d say.
He used to call her
Death.