Lukewarm

November 30, 2017

The year I am Mary

in the Christmas pageant, I blush,

      soundless next to my Joseph.

Our baby Jesus, wide unblinking eyes

edged with stiff lashes, reaches a plastic

arm to the ceiling, his mouth gaped

near my chest. My only line:

      Is there room for us at the inn?

The Innkeeper, that boy who

likes me. I can tell because

            he opens the door too fast.

      Did you know ‘manger’

means ‘to eat’ in French? the Head Angel

said during rehearsal. I think of this

      when the usher lets us snack

on leftover communion wafers.

      Can’t throw them away, he says.

Blessed biscuits, sacks of garbage

tossed out back no place for Our Lord.

But our warm bellies, hallowed pits.

      Two years later, the crew of us

huddle in Confirmation, washed by

the glow of The Simpsons. The Innkeeper

and I snorted pop rocks before class.

      In this episode, Bart’s detention lines

make him promise he will not cut corners.

      We pause

            to see how much Maggie costs.

Homer eats poorly prepared puffer fish

at The Happy Sumo, has only 22 hours to live.

      He wants to wake

for his last sunrise but sleeps until 11:30am.

Pastor imparts the message hidden

somewhere in the cartoon, but we jitter

      from gummy worm highs, taking

nothing in.       For our graduation, we give

Statements of Faith to the congregation.

I don’t know

      what to say, and recite

Psalm 23, rationalize that my trust

in God has wiped clean my fear of the dark.

      I forget to ask for grape juice

for my first Communion and my hands

      tremble and I wonder

            if now there’s room.

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