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Bearing the Cross

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

My catechism teacher once pulled me out into the hallway to recite the lord’s prayer and scripture flowed from my mouth

as it did

a million

times before,

my mind barely touching the stream as the words skimmed past, weaving slowly through the crevices of my tiny fingers like summer honey.

Who knew how hard it’d be to grasp something so sticky,

but the taste of prayer lingered on my lips from childhood to adolescence,

I drank the wine at eight years old

from a cup wiped clean of any sign my lips had touched it

and I never could scrub away the glimmering words

of a god I had never met.

I memorized parables and prayers,

even if I never understood their meaning;

I remember watching my grandfather die in the house I grew up in so vividly

because I knew innately,

in the doorway as he heaved his final phrases that I can’t recall, six years old yet aged in an instant,

that it was wrong to feel so much nothingness.

But today instead of wondering if his dying breath still lingers in those old hallways,

I wonder if my Sunday school shoes

are still buried in the back of my bedroom closet.

I never feared death,

but for all the wrong reasons.

The house used to paint the soles of my feet black, the residue of collected dust and dirt coating my innocence over and over itself again

Begging to be saved, or at least salvaged- I’d wash it all away in our tub and watch the darkened water flow into the drain in dizzying spirals, wondering if this could be transformed into the same wine that became part of me.

I am half Sylvia Plath, starved by my own caution at the hanging boughs of fig trees; the endless opportunities

that stretch at my fingertips;

an indecisive Tantalus growing restless by the minute

and half Jesus, cursing the fig tree myself, the residue of his sacrifice dripping on my tongue

I have never lived for myself

I don’t know how to repent for that-

One of the figs was a cathedral, the beacon of what might have been.

Another was sin without burden, complete departure from stained glass windows and church pews, A step into philosophies unexplored in my young heart

But I never chose; consigned to a meandering Limbo, starved.

A sin in and of itself.

Retribution in four years time,

Try sixteen; a barely-there portrait of

A woman with little life behind the eyes,

When will my body start feeling more like a temple and less like a burial ground?

I am not the visage of the lord I kneel before, though created in his image

I taste of nothingness, not bread and bible pages, not the tartness of wine,

Can I be forgiven for that?

I can pray for forgiveness from every patron saint, from every omnipotent iteration of God, from cross to pew

but to forgive myself for everything I did not become, everything I failed to be?

Scripture is a haunting tune; lyrics without a melody

Guilt has been knit into the marrow of my bones

And I mourn all I used to be. I am my own holy martyr,

My own patron saint,

My own God,

But I still wonder, in my moments before waking on Sunday mornings,

if I am worth veneration.


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