Good Girl's Catechism

by Brooke Powell (Univ. of Mount Union)

I found you curled between the pages of a bible,
a rosary of painkiller beads wrapped around your neck like a noose,
trying to strike a bargain with Jesus to turn your bottle of water into wine
even though you’d kill for something stronger.
But you’ve already had a long talk with the devil and he’s fresh out of whiskey,
having drunk himself to death trying to reconcile with a distant father
who kicked out his son for loving him just a little too much
and you know that feeling all too well.
It settles like the last notes of a hymn in your pipe organ lungs and echoes throughout your hollow
temple, no deity in sight, so you offer yourself up
bloody and sober and half asleep
to the false gods who drown themselves in gold chalices and silver coins.
You make amends with one absent father to another as you sit in a cramped confessional
spilling out a tangle of words that string themselves together in a prayer
and it almost becomes something beautiful.
Saturday nights are spent wracking your brain for memories of Sunday school mornings
because somewhere in the catacomb of your head there’s a catalogue of patron saints and at least one of
them has to be looking out for the misfits like us,
but all you can remember are the martyrs who were buried bruised and alone.
You write a story on your skin
of apostles and sinners and cigarette smoke lingering on your breath as you work spaghetti dinners in a
stale church basement on late Friday nights,
an unpublished gospel in your personal catechism.
You pray to dead gods and long lost heroes,
to spirits who bathe themselves in muttered hallelujahs and holy water,
and I pour out my faith into a girl who can never love me back.
I found you trapped between the covers of a bible,
paper thin and white as the pages of a story you never quite believed in,
a consecrated host lodged in your throat like some forbidden fruit.
You worshipped the blood beneath your skin and sacrificed yourself piece by piece to satisfy a hungry
god with no face or name.
There’s a pitying demon beneath your feet and an angel soaked in red over your shoulder.
This is your dogma.
This is your faith.
You drowned yourself in the words of a bible, a martyr at last,
and you finally found a reason to pray.