Monthly Archives: April 2012

Confession of Incomprehension

I don’t get it. What’s the point? Climb onto a couch and talk
to a therapist if what you want is understanding.
Stress relief? Talk to a friend, relative, stranger. Or walk
around and talk to yourself. You know the story’s ending,
after all. Or forgiveness? Talk to whoever it was
you wronged, or talk to God. If you hurt someone, make it right.
If you can’t make it right for them, adopt it as your cause,
make it right for someone, at least. Whatever is the fight,
isn’t it between them and you, or you and God? Where is
a sacrament for the breakings we can’t forget? Guarded
against things done to us that shame us beyond forgiveness,
ashamed even to be ashamed. So, where this all started:
standing in a long line in a dark church, saying, “Father,
forgive me for I have sinned, but I don’t know why I’m here.”

Confession of Ignorance

I remember Bruce’s bedroom — a mass of boys, and me,
trying to be one of them, tough & smart. Then years later,
married to one of them, an apartment couch, and mostly
the same group of boys, now young men. Back then, I was straighter
than any of them, sitting stiffly by my new “husband”,
avoiding the sights that accompanied the scent of smoke,
delirium of lavender microdot. Accustomed
or not, I knew enough to flinch; expected the next poke,
the deep bruises, the fists. My fear, his calm. His sense of pride
in leaving pain with no marks, so no one would believe me.
He didn’t just hit me. He’d hit them, too, his friends. So, why’d
they stay? I couldn’t understand. Bruce’s mother told me,
“To keep you safe. They worried. Each one of those boys loved you.”
I had no idea. I didn’t know. I never knew.

Confession of Confessions

Confessions curl within confessions.
Some so sheer they are almost invisible
and speaking them changes nothing,
except that little whisper of silence
inside, where something used to speak.

Some are so vivid they paint your skin
with stories and blood, each line swelling
then subsiding, only to swell up again
each time the story is told, each time
the confession makes itself new again.

Each time the confession breaks itself
open again, it breaks you open, breaks
the unwilling witness who wanted nothing
but not to know. Don’t ask. Don’t ask.
I would tell you anything, everything.

Confession of Inadequacy

Hack, hack, hack,
Hack, hack, hack.

He coughs. And coughs.
he doubles over
and can’t stop.

Hack, hack, hack,
Hack, hack, hack.

while coughing
he’ll press his hand
against his neck,
or above his sternum.
I imagine
the sharp pain,
the taste of blood.

Hack, hack, hack,
Hack, hack, hack.

I’ve brought the meds,
water to take them;
bought more cough drops,
cough syrup, candies;
made tea, rice,
warm milk with honey.

I ask a question,
he just looks at me.
If he’s feeling good
he’ll roll his eyes.
Then close them.

Hack, hack, hack,
Hack, hack, hack.

Hack, hack, hack,
Hack, hack, hack.

Confession of Bemusement

When the bus finally comes, a half hour late,
our chilly group piles on into the crowd.
There’s a retired gent with his cane, midway
back. I used to chat with him. Like now, loud
conversations entertained those around.
Hadn’t seen him since he moved. He smiles. I smile.
Troublemaker, I think, fondly. He’d clowned
and teased, joked and poked. It’s been a while.
I cling tightly to the bar as the bus
turns corners, pulls into base. Folks hussle
to the entrance. He stands to leave, adjusts.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, muscles!
Where did those muscles come from? My eyes blink.
He sucks in his gut, walks by, and winks.

Confession of Disbelief

The elderly priest held his rosary
at his waist, looking down at it. He paused.
“I owe you,” he said, “an apology.”
That was unexpected! What could have caused
this? I was just a 20-year-old girl.
“I didn’t believe you,” he continued.
“I couldn’t. Your story made my head whirl.
I thought you made it up. We interviewed
everyone involved. The stories agreed.”
Eyes horrified, he finally looked at me.
“It was true. You … lived …?” He swayed like a reed.
“Oh, that’s alright.” I smiled at him gently.
“See, I never expected to survive.
Now, every day is a gift. I’m alive!”

Confessions of Women

Hospital?! Good Lord, we couldn’t even
get to a doctor. Things were different
back then. None of the women had a car.
The boys had cars, and the men, but they were

all in town. With their cars. We were outside
Lafayette somewhere, on the family farm.
No, we couldn’t call the boys for a ride.
We couldn’t even call a doc. No phone.

Mother walked the half mile to the neighbors,
but they weren’t home, so, she couldn’t get close
to even that phone. There was nothing much
they could do. It was the women, alone,

the whole long hot day and night that girl child
lay on her bed in a coma. Spider
bite, a bad one. The spiders are nasty
in Louisiane, ‘specially in summer.

Maybe a brown recluse? Maybe. Who knows?
Of course, Mother did have her herb garden.
All the women did then. Times were different.
They needed them! There weren’t medicines, not

like they have now. So Mother went out, picked
some herbs. I don’t know which ones. No idea.
No idea what she did with them. All
I remember is the women — Mother,

Grandmother, Aunt Bernice, Aunt Edna, all
the aunts, all of them on their knees around
the bed. Praying, that’s right. That’s what I saw
first thing when I finally opened my eyes.

Confessing the Ride Home

“That door doesn’t work. You’ll have to get in the other side.”
But when I climb up the driver’s side I see a toolbox,

too heavy for me to lift, blocking the passenger door.
Whoa. I back down, but his hand meets my backside & shoves.

“Go on. Get in. I need to get home.” Maybe. Just maybe.
I’m being paranoid. After all, I live by his girl,

and he’s my fellow’s best friend. “Hey! Wait, you missed the turn! There … “
“Quit fussing. I’m just getting something from the house. One sec.”

Gravel in the driveway. Branches scrape the roof of the truck.
It’s dark. No streetlights. No sidewalk. “No problem. I can walk

from here. My friend just lives a few blocks away. Walking’s fine.”
“I said I’d give you a ride home. I’ll give you a ride home.

Now, come on.” The truck is so high, I have to grab onto
the door to step out, still thinking I’ll walk. He grabs my wrist

hard. “Come on in. You might as well have a drink of water
while you wait.” I pull. He just walks, as if I weigh nothing.

I wonder later why I didn’t scream. He did give me
a ride home. The sun was high and bright. I was late for work.

Confession of the Moon

Cleopatra bathed in the wrong milk. She
misunderstood what the country wives said,
and they were reluctant to disagree.
Elsewhere, on warm clear nights with a full moon,

young women pull back the curtains to sleep,
naked, in the light I pour over them.
This is the bathing. This is the white milk
that softens, smoothes, and clears their skin. And I,

I treasure those nights, those faint beautiful
reflecting moons on earth, nestled like stones
amid the green darkness of summer leaves,
opening closed windows, uncovering roofs.

As I mute and transmute the sun’s glory,
so they do with mine, carrying it on.
I swear, the milkiness of their skin is
just a hint of the sweet carried within.

Confession of Breaking

The broken bits don’t fit.
When they don’t fit, they break
other things. At first, even I
didn’t know I’m broken.