The pews sing silence around me,
all thirteen ghosts crucified into the windows, creating stains of colour,
remnants of ancient prayer cascading across the altar in stripes.
A hymn book sits beside me, its tea-soaked pages open
on ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, the ink faded
from an eternity of thumbings
leaving barely any worship for this dusty morning.
The son hangs
torn and naked, nails pressing kisses into his palms,
crown scratching away at his mind,
a vision of Mary present in I beneath him.
Our Father is missing.
I pull open the closed mahogany of the confessional,
sit on the hard wood, hear the door click shut,
wrap arms around myself, the shadows inside colder than the cave of Arimathea.
I bless whomever may or may not be on the other side of the grate,
tossing sacred beads of rosary between my fingers,
letting the cross spin in the hollow of my claustrophobia.
I don’t know where to start.
The beginning was at my birth but that somehow seems irrelevant here
so instead I talk of an angel.
To this descendant of ghosts I talk of a miracle;
how she made me create new praises to sing, her name always the subject,
how her fingertips pierced themselves into my side, how her Moses hands
parted me and my God,
how she kissed the Holy Spirit into me.
The confessional creaks.
A cough then a rattling then something like daylight
as I am wrenched from this hallowed box
by my wrists, or, why not my hair? There is no mercy for sinners
and I have committed the greatest sin of all:
of loving without discrimination, of loving
someone that is a something, someone that is an animal, less than that.
And I am guilty by association alone,
as if it wasn’t bad enough that I encouraged it, that I wanted it,
that the Lord’s name slipped from my tongue too many times to count
in ‘Hail Marys’ whilst I discovered her unconsecrated body,
the devilish version of Communion bread.
There is no room for me here.
The mockery of Jesus stares back at me from his fixed place on the ceiling
as I am dragged by the priest, his breath heaving
like my body weighs a cross,
the aisle a path to Golgotha.
I wonder why the carpet burns so much –
I haven’t been penetrated by any carpenter either,
all ten commandments etched into my skin,
a to-do list of sin,
none of them crossed off.
Bowls of pebbles guard the oaken doors
and I’m not sure who to thank that they’re not bigger,
that enough of the world deems public execution to be too unfair a punishment.
The priest forces open the doors
and throws me outside the sanctified land he’s devoted his life to protect,
calling me Judas, then demon instead because I was never promised to his Lord in the first place.
Even as the doors shut and I am locked out,
shivering in the shade of a mulberry tree,
I find myself whispering prayers against my own lips,
watching the clouds roll into shapes that shouldn’t be there,
my crucifix cutting into my palm.
My Father is still missing.