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Fishbone Novena

Saint Blaise, 4th century Armenian martyr,
Patron Saint of animals and those who suffer from throat ailments.




O Saint Stammerer, Saint Stutterer,
Patron Saint of the Lisp and Smokeswept Throat,
Patron Saint of the Veterinarian and Marine Biologist,
Patron Saint of the Zookeeper,
Patron Saint of No Relation—

Pray for Florida Pest Control and the Department of Environmental Protection,
the Fish, Game, and Wildlife Commission—

Pray for the animal control officer gripping the snare pole he slips like a whisper
over the head,
around the neck of a raccoon,
a possum,
a red fox,
a river otter,
a skunk,
an armadillo, porcupine, alligator, muskrat, fisher cat,
a coyote with its hidden litter of pups under the porch stairs;
he tightens the snare around the neck of each
and drags them,
across the field of stones

to safety.



One day a group of hunters seeking wild animals for the amphitheater came upon Blaise’s cave in the woods. They were first surprised and then frightened to see the bishop kneeling in prayer surrounded by wolves, lions, and bears. As the hunters dragged Blaise off to prison, a mother approached with her son. The boy had a fishbone stuck in his throat.



Ahem! Cough! Cough!



Once a month a college intern comes and rescues me from
my 5th grade science class to take me to the coat closet to correct
my “slushy esses”: I see Suzy’s sock, with a tongue depressor levered

against my bottom teeth, forcing my tongue to the roof of my mouth:
I see seven seals swimming swiftly to safety, singing “Save me!”
Singing, “Silence me.” Singing, “Sssss-silly, one-one thousandth of a

thththththin, Ssssssssssssssssssad something or other.”
Singing, “Send me home sssssssssoon, please, before someone
notices the youngest of the Blais boys is missing.”



From the desire to be invisible,
from the fear of being forgotten,
from the fear of being invisible,
from the desire to be forgotten,
from the fear of controls and the desire to control,
grant me grace, Saint Blaise.

So that others may be more invisible than I.
So that others may be more forgotten.
So that the pups shall remain forever ‘neath the stairs (or for as long as they desire),
so that the boy won’t be forced to remain forever in that closet—his tongue banished to the alveolar ridge,
repeating nonsense to a dark world of empty coats smelling of last night’s dinner,
Grant me, Saint Blaise, only the capacity
for joy, goodwill, and kindness.



When I got home from school, instead of studying for his GED,
my uncle was on the top porch, showing my brothers how
to break the bottom off a Michelob bottle and jab a spic in the face,

should a gang of them, for instance, roll up on you when you’re
walking home alone from a friend’s house. “A lot of people
think you take out the big one first, but that’s bullshit. It’s

the loud one. He’s the leader. Take him down and the rest will follow.”
“Like this,” my uncle says again, as pieces of brown glass shower
the front gate some piece of shit was always leaving open.



O Patron Saint of Wildlife Management,
O Patron Saint of Hook, Line, and Sinker,
Patron Saint of Panda Bear Husbandry,
Patron Saint of 1-800-PET-MEDS,

O Saint Blaise, tell us the words that you said

when the mother said, O please
When the loudest of the hunters said, Come with me…
When you first said the words to dislodge the bone lodged like a word in his throat,
straight like the tiniest bough you slowly bent back like a bow

and then let go,

and then let go.



“Shut the fucking front gate! The dog’s gonna get out!”



Like Jesus, Blaise walked on water, but unlike Jesus, when he got to the center of the lake, he sat down. So, Saint Blaise had more style. From the iron comb dragged across his flesh, thin strips fell from his back and shoulders like wood shavings. The faithful secretly swiped strips strewn about the square and stuck them in their children’s mouths. When asked the third time, as Blaise sat silently, suffering, in the scaffolding, the boy finally answered for him. The saint simply said, “I love you.”



Craig Blais is the author of About Crows, winner of the 2013 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin Press. His poems are forthcoming in Anti-, Antioch Review, Barrow Street, and The Moth (Ireland).