Manson’s Child

When I was in the tenth grade, splattered 

with acne, I decided that I’d had enough

of Catholicism and its steady stab of guilt.

The next logical step was to devote myself

to Lord Satan and master black magic.

So I borrowed a book from the library

on Aleister Crowley, hoping to learn 

some spells to summon Lord Satan, 

but the book was a biography and boring

so I returned it the next day and took out

Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter instead

and pledged my allegiance to Charles Manson,

who seemed likely to be the Antichrist. 

I imagined myself living on Spahn Ranch

with the Family and all those cute hippie girls

who only wanted to drop acid and ride me

raw all day long, indifferent to my zits. 

Then I bought The White Album and read

the entirety of The Book of Revelations

and told my friends how Charlie’s arrival

had been prophesized by The Beatles, 

ignoring the fact that all the Manson lunatics

were locked up for the rest of their lives.

But no one seemed interested, especially

the girls I was trying to impress with my evil,

so I started dating a girl from my CCD class,

escaping unscathed from the Manson Family.

Small Acts of Heresy 

After my Confirmation ushered me in 

as an adult in the Roman Catholic Church

I dated a girl two years younger than me,

a student in my mother’s CCD class

preparing to receive her own gold cross.

Our relationship consisted of some petting 

and attending Sunday morning mass together,

sitting in the balcony, holding hands and

rubbing each other’s knees, an act of heresy.

One Sunday, we sat behind an old couple.

The thin man wore a gray suit two-sizes 

too large, and his wife in a floral dress

sang off-key in the boisterous voice of God.

In the middle of Father Fitzgerald’s homily,

the old man ripped a rusty-zipper fart

as his wife gasped and elbowed his ribs.

My girlfriend and I bit our bottom lips

as the old man glanced over his shoulder

and grinned at all our small acts of heresy. 

“Betcha the Good Lord heard that,” he said.

Cleaning with Jesus

I was sentenced to ten hours of community service

by the resident director of my freshman dormitory 

for showering with a female in the men’s bathroom.

So I walked to St. Matthew’s, the Catholic church

in our quaint college town and spoke to the priest,

a bear-like man with his fist wrapped in Rosary beads.

He nodded to me, disappeared into the rectory 

then returned carrying a plastic bucket with Pine Sol

and a sponge and told me to polish all the wooden pews,

the stairs to the alter and the statues of the Holy saints.

But I had no way to reach Jesus, mounted near the ceiling,

without using a ladder, a hose, or a shower of sorts.

Stepping in Shit

It made sense that I was asked to be a pallbearer 

at Bill’s funeral, given all of the timed I carried him 

drunk from the bar to the car when he was alive

with biceps like softballs and a thunderous laugh.

And Bill could bar-brawl as well, once taking out

the town tough guy in the men’s room before

returning to his stool to pay his tab and finish

his beer when the cops slapped on the cold cuffs 

and hauled him to jail where he slept for the night.

Only cancer could take out Bill, dropping him quick.

Bill’s funeral was held on an idyllic day in May, 

the sun beaming in a cerulean sky, birds chattering

in the tall trees surrounding his grave in the cemetery.

Five other guys and I lined in two rows in the back 

the hearse and grabbed hold of the coffin’s handles

As it slips from the wheels then carried Bill’s body

through twenty yards of grass where I stepped in 

the only pile of dog shit in the well-groomed grounds,

and I swear I could hear that thunderous laugh

resounding in the sky behind God’s blazing sun.

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