It's Native American Day today where I live, and Indigenous Peoples Day if Biden has his way. This week's poem is from my book, The Book of Crooked Prayer, a poem I offer in remembrance of the victims of boarding schools, mother & baby homes, laundries, industrial schools, "refuges," and other institutions that practiced or perpetuate abuse in the name of God.
I am outside, skirting the sanctuary.
It’s true; I love your dark cocoon, air heavy
with frankincense. I look good in sackcloth.
I once swooned at Mary’s alabaster feet, red candle
for each dead friend. But I’m outside now,
kicking gravel in the parking lot.
Father Church, middle-aged miser, you
stockpile tithes, real estate, paintings.
You pass off bleached sheep bones
as John’s left thumb or Peter’s anklebone
for cold hard cash, turn a blind eye
(under a gilded miter) from people
living on grubs. You turn goodness to sin—
peasant woman’s pennyroyal to witches’
brew, harvest blessing to porn,
metaphysics to black magic, red-haired
night-owl Lilith to Adam’s hysterical ex,
even Christ’s own sweetheart to whore.
Uncover your ears. I’m wailing out here!
Tell me this is history. Tell me you’ve
dressed it down, wised up, that God’s
army isn’t still out there on horseback
hunting down blasphemers, heretics,
Indian kids clinging to their mothers. Say
you’ve spread your arms to the faithful women
who’ve cleaned up after you from the beginning.
Tell me your priest wrapped a pregnant, bone-hollow,
HIV-positive Sudanese girl in his velvet robes.
Tell me you’ve uncorked God’s blessing, poured it out
for gays, divorcees, little boys lured
into the sacristy. Tell me your holy curator
bartered your stash of Egyptian relics
for rice and beans. Tell me you’ve gathered in
the lost chapters, turned your sacramental wine
to tears, pawned the fisherman’s ring
for blankets, medicine, corrugated tin.
Tell me that late last night, baptismal fonts
ran with free milk & honey, altars crumbled,
rose petals rained from the choir loft,
Mary broke the rock, charmed the snake, wept.
Tell me that, and I’ll come back inside,
fall down on my knees.