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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