Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beth Boland / Priest


by Beth Boland
The priest is here to exorcise
The devil from my sordid soul
Whom I must have ingested whole
So ardent is his enterprise.
I kneel, beset by phantom fears
And try too hard to be contrite,
Confession is the holy rite,
Seven the number of my years.
I mouth the litany of sin
I have corralled for the event
And swear that of it I repent
To the partitioned mannequin.
And while, as always at this time,
He stages an important pause
I study the dividing gauze
(Which in itself must be a crime)
And see the man who puts the host
Upon my salivating tongue
Move beads of Rosary along
Like a beheaded monarch’s ghost.
Speech is resumed and like a bell
My penance he intones for me;
This week it would appear to be
Hail Marys which can stave off Hell.
The altar rail supports my chin
As I incant the sombre prayer
And feel myself too small to bear
The burden of supposèd sin.
For in the box I must aspire
To sins that I can hardly say
Believing this the only way
To fend off the infernal fire.
And so I speak of lies unlied
Of damage I have never dealt
Of envy I have never felt
And precepts I have not defied,
Of thefts I have as yet to make
Of slander I have never sown
Of insults I have never thrown
Of vows I have as yet to break.
As spotless as an angel’s wing
My soul sleeps softly in my breast
While its transgressions are confessed
To one intently listening.
And yet, for one devoid of stain
Gigantic is my cross of guilt
And though beneath its weight I wilt
Its presence I cannot explain.
And then I summon to my mind
The universal sin of Eve
Whose imprimatur she did leave
Upon the soul of humankind.
And though my christening was meant
To clean the woman’s crime away
I postulate that to this day
Its potency is not yet spent.
For is not woman held to blame
For evils only men invent?
And for them, must she not repent
And bear the corresponding shame?
A week ago I was confirmed
And though it was my special day
I do not hesitate to say
That something deep inside me squirmed
Because I do not wish to wed
A man who has been crucified
Nor do I want to be the bride
Of someone risen from the dead.
But they have stratagems and plans
To model me into a nun
My womanhood has not begun
And they are publishing the banns!
That man inside the box, that priest,
A eunuch of himself has made
And I can’t help but be afraid
Of one who lives yet is deceased.
No light reposes in his eyes
No spark that he might call upon
His love for living is long-gone
His smile his tragedy belies.
Sequestered man, bedecked in black
Who has beheld the afterlife
And taken it to be his wife
Aware there is no going back.
He has no here, he has no now
But only long-lost yesterdays,
How barbarously God repays
His votary’s unbroken vow!
Poor man, whose years are almost spent
Well may you sermonize and preach
And your parishioners beseech
Their profligacy to repent.
If ever life was thrown away
Then yours must be the paradigm
Who’s squandered his apportioned time
Anticipating Judgement Day.
I cross myself with chubby hand
And now the puzzlement begins
For I have been absolved of sins
Which I don’t even understand.
But genuflecting at the rail
I feel myself so very clean
So imperturbably serene
A feeling which does not prevail,
For I recall my mother, Eve
And feel iniquity suffuse
My body like a bleeding bruise
And dirty as I came, I leave.
Oh priest!  A curse upon your head!
And for yourself I bid you pray
For he is in the Devil’s pay
Who nurtures little girls with dread.
December 2003

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