Economies of Martyrdom

(after Antony Gormley’s Transport)

How many nails does it take to sketch out a body? What penny size must those spikes be? How many ells of skin—the largest organ—can be stretched with 60d nails? Does the corpse of a prelate hung from a vaulted ceiling require more nails than the same corpse festering in dank Canterbury soil?  How fast can a deacon become a priest? A priest become a bishop? A bishop an archbishop? How many florins does that cost? What’s the shillings’ worth of a day’s wet work for four knights? Will they accept nails instead of silver pennies? How many strokes of the lash will eighty monks need to slash onto a king’s back before he can leave off wearing sackcloth? How many hours must a king spend in a crypt before he is absolved? How many pilgrims can purchase how much sack and cheese for a thruppence? How many ooohs and aaahs under a levitating saint’s carcass can be bought for a pound sterling?

Richard Manly Heiman lives in the pines on the Sierra Nevada slope in Northern California. He works as a substitute teacher, and writes when the kids are at recess. He holds an MFA from Lindenwood University, and his work appears in Rattle, Bop Dead City, After the Pause, Spirit Fire Review, and elsewhere. Richard is a two-time 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. His website:

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