lower-case he and me
Late Thursday breakfast, at last I confessed myself
to a poorly-dressed but well-bearded priest.
This priest (I did not catch his name, so I will call him
Father, or perhaps lower-case he),
was a sleepy-eyed fool behind his drugstore specs,
and he did not recall the extent of my sins even after
I recited them from my torn sheet of foolscap.
Distracted, he told me his dreams of
a cemetery of trees,
of branches falling and ravens calling,
and stale mausoleums filled
with herbs and seeds.
There was no place for my words
to brace against his filthy cassock.
He seemed to be an aching arch of rumored bones
and unpleasant knees,
and I was concerned for his soul —
and sagging flesh and ash-stained hands and shallow chest —
as much as I was for my own design of infinity
and the fragility of my possible divinity.
“The God you may know,” he said,
“he is one slow hijo de puta
painting this canvas.”
He paused for effect, which was odd and yet
his breath and, saith he:
“This place is his divine piece, you see,
and we are what he has painted into the corners.
The poets — I see you are one, from your long list
of synonyms to best describe your best sins–
mostly suffer from agraphia when regarding the faith
of their pens.
But I forgive you, I guess, if that makes you less
inclined to bother me with your mistakes again.”
“These are not mere mistakes,” I cryeth,
“I have broken the Commandments, some of them
several times, and one of them in a brothel.
Perhaps three of them in the same brothel,
but at different times.
Can I please be forgiven?
What words can I say, what deeds need be committed
to memory, compounded by shame?
Give me the name of one who can forgive me,
if not you.”
Father and lower-case he, both being the same,
“Son, I have committed these same misdeeds,”
“which is why I myself became a priest.
My poor father. And my grievous mother!
But I could not help myself.
My sins were so wondrous,
and that was the curse given us,
given us all.
To feel good is so shameful, is it not?
And more so when you’re caught,
and even when you ought to know better!
Say twenty-and-three Hail Mary’s and
get thy gins behind thee,
and I will join you, boy, bring your coins with ye, boy!
Even now, in this comedy of errors,
before the devil’s veiled terrors,
I will join you in the brothel,
(and I know that sounds so awful),
but we will chant the prayers of the Lord,
over Scotch whiskey and flaming swords.
I am yet uncertain that it is not a sin,
but pour that gin, boy, and then pour it again.”
With that, he removed his specs
and wiped the lenses with his wet sleeve.
“It has been so long since I last confessed
my own misdeeds,” he said.
“They are sins, of course, a horse
by any other name is still a good wager.
I hear you belabor the forgiveness you seek,
but for cab fare and a peek
at that place downtown,
I will anoint your crown with my useless mercy.
“Indeed,” I said, learning nothing by and large.
“We borrow today to pay for tomorrow.
If you agree to go onward, by tomorrow
go forward, and sin no more.”
“Say no more,” saith I,
and my friend Father and lower-case he,
both being the same,
stepped outside, beyond our prison’d door.
There was no place for my words
to brace against my filthy cassock.
“Say no more,” saith I again
to no one in particular,
and then began to turn away.