Sunday Jul 14

jacquelinedoyle Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her award-winning flash fiction chapbook The Missing Girl was published by Black Lawrence Press, and she has recent flash fiction in Wigleaf, Post Road, New Flash Fiction Review, and The Collagist. Her work has earned six Pushcart nominations, two Finalist listings in Best Small Fictions, and four Notable Essay citations in Best American Essays. Find her on twitter @doylejacq, and her website can be found here.

Prayer To Saint Dymphna

St. Dymphna, patron saint of the insane, worker of miracles, blessed art thou among the Irish saints. St. Dymphna, beheaded by your own father when you fled from Ireland to Belgium to escape his unholy lust, hear me now. 

Who can I tell but you? That everything changed after Mam died. That Da stumbles home from the pub in Kilkenny and steals into my bedroom in the dark of night reeking of whiskey, that he puts his hand over my mouth and commands me never to tell. What he does, the dirty things he whispers. There’s no one would believe me, not my aunts and uncles, not the neighbors, not the priest. “The poor man losing a wife at that age, may she rest in peace,” Aunt Catherine says, making the sign of the cross. Father Callahan says, “We must pray for him,” head bowed over Aunt Catherine’s Sunday dinner. But who’ll pray for me? When I rush from the table, they think it’s because I mourn. 

Only you can understand, you who lost your mother too, you who escaped our motherland, you who faced down your lecherous father when you were fifteen like me, even when it meant losing your life. They say five lunatics who slept at the site of your murder awoke cured of their mental afflictions. They say pilgrims visit your church and asylum in Belgium for cures. They say you work miracles.

I keep your holy card in my missal and trace your image with my fingers: you hold the devil himself on a leash, a sword with your other hand. Your gaze is calm. Give me your strength and courage to do what’s right. Work a miracle for me.

Cure my madness, holy St. Dymphna, the voices in my head that grow louder every day, the tears I can’t push away, the darkness that descends on me. I can’t eat, the flesh melts from my bones. I can’t sleep for the shame of it. I can’t stir myself to do the milking and the washing and the cooking and the cleaning and the gardening. I can’t show my face in church. Deliver me from this place. There’s so many Kilkenny girls sailed from Liverpool, found work on the other side, but Da says there’s no money for that. I’m needed here. If I wade into the River Nore tomorrow, who can blame me? Help me resist the voices that pull me toward the water. Help me find another way out. 

Holy virgin martyr, mother of none, protect me now and at the hour of my death. Amen.