First Confession


Mid-March and we stand

in a fidgety procession,

our whispers echo off

marble walls like moths

against glaring lightbulbs.

We slide onto the wood pews,

shouldering our classmates

into position.

An occasional giggle,

a foot-bang against the kneeler,

and Sister Dorothy furrows

her deep forehead.

Flustered, we thumb the hymnals,

doubting we can unpin

the words from our throats –

words that will declare

our small sins in the dark

air-choked box of the confessional.

Mary Kay Kelly is the first to exit

and all we see is her draping black hair,

pleated plaid skirt and blue knee highs.

How sinful can her seven-year-old life be?

Our hands sweat as we

recite our sins in our heads,

some kind of moral laundry list

            Lied to my mother

            Swore at the neighbor kid

            One day, didn’t do my chores.

Spring is upon us

and we’re wishing for kickball,

jump rope, hopscotch and fresh air

to swipe our cheeks to red swaths

that stay through fifth period.

The statues of saints in the enclaves

peer down on us and we’re wondering

how they lived holier and holier lives.

They do not answer us.