I am from boys’ black pants, white shirts, girls’ pastels.
I am from May processions. I was once chosen
to crown ceramic Mary. I once swung a censer, leaving
incense trails at Midnight Mass. I am from church
filled with faithful singing O Come All Ye.
I am from Sisters Mary Catherine, Bridget, Augustine–
women covered head to toe, their eyes to chin
revealing human skin. I am from fingered beads,
Holy Mary, full of grace, fifty three, a few Glory Be’s,
Our Father, and just once I believe. I am from love
making with Brady Murphy, a fellow altar boy,
alone, just me, my pillow, my single bed, its worn
Lone Ranger spread. I am from meatless Fridays,
tuna fish, from holy water dabbed, cross-shaped
on my forehead, In the Name of. I am from
envelopes, my job to stuff and seal–chosen
by Father Matthew for postal duty in his private rectory.
I am from a pillow sticky with a wilted flower smell.
I am from same-scented tissues off the nightstand
at Father Matt’s, always quickly, quietly flushed.
I am from the sliding scrape of wood on wood,
the unveiling of the close-woven screen, hiding
sight of who is there, allowing my cracking voice.
I am from Bless me Father for I have sinned.
It’s now been thirty years since my last confession.
But it all comes back to me too easily. I am from
catechism’s claim, intrinsically disordered. I am from
Brady’s freckles, red hair, and his scent of Ivory soap.
College and a job, then a failed marriage. Finally
I heard enough of Father’s voice, of his forgiveness
through a woven screen. I chose to depart out
between pews of wood and that wall of gory crosses,
with the tap of my dress shoes on cold tile. I left too late.
Even now, believing in my lover’s arms, I still hear the hum
of lights hung high on my childhood church’s ceiling.
James M. Croteau lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his partner of 29 years, Darryl. He grew up gay and Catholic in the south. His poems have appeared in New Verse News, Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry, and Queer South: LGBTQ Writers on the American South and others. He blogs about his writing occasionally at talkingdogsholymen.blogspot.com.