Contrition

My friend, my friend, I was born

doing reference work in sin, and born

confessing it.  This is what poems are…

-Anne Sexton, ‘With Mercy for the Greedy’

 

 

Forgive my fat mouth!  Topsy-

turvy glutton.  It begs speech and out

it wings, a swallow from the flue Careful,

girl, your tongue might fly out, too… It happens

I’m a long line’s lonely sum, and rank

confessor, posting sin before I even fell

to earth (the sparkling

 

cider in her nuptial glass, empire

waisted gown to hide her girth…)  I must

catalogue these failings—Irish music

drenched in gin!  Its pipes would wallow me

into the bin… toora, loora, looral

focus, girl, or follow in their sins

Idolatry, now there’s a pretty word!

 

Grandma worshipped whiskey in the glass, two cubes

that clinked and cooled—how her head ached

when my Dad would wake for school!  Her fists

curled up like smoke if Grandpa asked

her where she’d been the night before—but

in her head, she heard her father hiss

you whore… he used to beat

 

her face until she bled, her mother

always turned the other cheek.  Her sister

Grace, the one who courted trouble?

Girl, it doubled back on her… oh, but

that’s a different tale, another

time.  Bless me,

Dad, I have to speak

 

your crimes—your fury zipped the house

shut like the priest’s confessional slot!

Even the dogs refused their bark.

All mouth, I mapped escape routes

in the dark—lusty girl, with mercy

for her body.  My hands skimmed brand new

breasts, then wandered south—

since we’ve happened onto lust, let’s

say it plain.  At 23, (and four, and five…)

I numbered men like sleepless children

count fat sheep.  More, I cried, and more!

Another needle in the vein— my wounded

need’s a wild, trackless

train.  On, it ticks, and on

 

like tatted lace—these poems

are its wrangled, desperate trace—

they bleed in some back alley

with poor, reckless Grace.  Oh, greedy

tongue, don’t fail me.

Heed this seedy call.  My God, my

God, I’m sorry, but I have to spin it all.

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