waitress poems

Monday, May 16, 2005

Saint Colman's

A large church on a city street--
cavernous, impersonal.
But here my life began
in every way that matters.
Here I made up my first story
at age seven. With little Joeen
who had escaped
her grandmother’s stiff hand
for the third time in a week
crouching beneath the pew,
I told Father Cooney
the runaway was my sister.
and that a benevolent mother
would come for us soon.
I lied with such passion and ease
that when Joeen
reached up her sweaty hand
I felt the blood
that ran between us
trickling into my palm.
Here at age thirteen,
I fell in love with the back
of Brian Doyle’s head--
so close I could see the tracks
his comb left in shining red hair,
so near I got high
on his drug store Canoe.
When the church was empty,
I came alone and set a blaze of
candles, kneeling
before a woman swathed in sky
and wondering
what to do with my life.
This is the church I ran away from
at sixteen, smoking cigarettes
and gulping Cokes
in the cemetery across the street
when I was supposed to be at CCD,
kissing a boy for the first time
while the dead kept silent witness,
and Sister marked me absent.
A large church on a city street--
cavernous, half-empty now,
but I have spent my life
running away and coming back,
trapped between the lures of that night
among the headstones and
the unchanging gaze
of a woman in blue.


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