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I Will Embrace Loneliness

When I was a child,

Mother entered my room

for bedtime prayers.

Jésus, Marie, Joseph, je vous donne mon coeur,

mon âme, mon esprit et ma vie.

Mother’s arms were slightly raised,

fingers unfurled, like she was trying not to fall.

She looked placid

on the edge of sleep.

On the wall, Jesus followed her gestures

with his dark eyes,

ready to weep real tears.

I let my fingers feel the rosary beads

Papa had given me for my first communion

shift across my palms, a calibrated slither

against my skin as I prayed.

I listened to the crickets,

the first of the evening birds,

the breeze rustling the grapevines.

I felt an aching sense of loss.

I ended prayers the way

I ended conversations: abruptly,

without lengthy prelude or false closure.


& I was gone.

I’ve learned to embrace

the loneliness of being Catholic.

In my small church,

dark & cool, the soft, blue tinge

& irregular shapes of stained glass

tiles depict the stories of saints & scenes

from the Bible where the heroes carried,

the weight of their destinies.

I love the chanting

of Veni Creator Spiritu,

the statue of the Virgin Mary with her smooth,

serene face & her outstretched arms

—her courage in loneliness.

Father Martin wears an elaborate robe

of gold & silver threads

that sparkle in candlelight.

Incense weaves into the weft of his clothes.

When he gazes into a mirror

& into his own eyes, does he fear

the proximity of that other face

glaring wildly at him through the glass?

What dreams does he keep sheathed,

sharp & deep in his heart?

On Sundays, head bowed & hands

together in front of my face,

I make my way toward the altar;

I genuflect, kneels, tilt my head back

& stick out my tongue

to receive the Body of Christ.

I am awed by centuries of ritual—& loneliness.

It rushes me with something dark & heady.

& I embrace it, because I am

not alone in my solitude.


(Cover art for this poem by Frank Morrison)

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