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.