Leap Saints

Earth circles smooth and even in its place
A sunrise starts each day and a sunset
Marks where each day shall end, by God’s dear grace
As days so seasons, so the year is met.

And for each day that builds the circling year
A special saint is nominated, named,
Is celebrated, holding free and clear
A title to the day that saint has claimed.

But though each season follows in its turn
Revolving years run ragged at the rim
As almanacs and scholars had to learn
The year keeps overflowing at the brim.

If God, perfection, made the heavens so,
If Earth were circling, perfect in its curve,
There would be no free will, and so we know,
We’re free to act because all atoms swerve.

We make our choices, live our human way
For February the 29th will make
Each fourth year a leap year, an extra day,
And so we’re free, for our dear leap day’s sake.

And for that day what saint shall be appointed?
No single solemn sobersided saint,
But for our special day God has appointed
Three jokers to hold sway without complaint.

St Cassian, St Oswald and St Aub,
Three tricksters dressed in motley, lords of doubt,
Who bid us merrily to strum and daub,
Play tricks and let our wilder spirits out.

In icons they are hard to tell apart
In caps with bells, with haloes added in,
But they’re delightful in the later art
Leap-frogging down the aisle with such a grin.

St Cassian, in coloured Cossack furs
St Oswald, juggling apples like a clown,
St Aubin herding cats — you hear the purrs.
They signify the world turned upside-down.

Oh glorious leap day saints, whose vaulting leaps
Give us the chance to choose all we can be,
Sinners or saints, beneath our God who keeps
Our world, so wild, so beautiful, so free.

(For Otavia Propper and David Wald and Lucretius) 11th August 2013