church homes

By Calla Quinn

in my Father’s house it is cold.
i crawled under the pews last time.
when my stepmother sings, i hear
a voice inside, distant; off key. on
wednesdays there are booms. quieter
are the sundays when i am
allowed to be small.

how naïve are the children.

when i was there i was afraid.
hiding under pews i thought was
a game but it was more than that
it was a wound.

she stands out, this second mother
of mine, she sings and people listen.
they stop in their tracks and when she
dedicates her silly song to me, the
strangers at whatever church we’re
at tonight turn to me and smile. isn’t
it cute? aren’t i the sweetest? and i
quietly slump into my chair, equally
sleepy and ashamed.

my father’s church is hard but it’s made
of people who crowd me with love.
they know her name, and i follow
her voice, but really i hide behind it.
and aren’t i proud to belong to
someone in charge, who commands
the stage? and the authority of people who i
suspect i knew, even then, were conditional.

how naïve are the children.

at my mother’s church it is soft.
i fell asleep in the pew last time.
when i was there i felt safe enough
to linger; secure enough to make
vulnerable, myself. i remember
her. the safety of someone who i
suspect i knew, even then, was like me.

blessèd are those
among women.

there is a superficial wound atop
my hand tonight, and with it,
an itch unscratched; unscathed, it runs
beside my vein. unhinged, i sing:
i remember her.

blessèd are those
among women.

i often forget the innocence that
went unnoticed to me, then. i know not
how it feels to walk without sin. even
then, i suspect, someone knew - i was
just too at home on her lap. i am too
uncomfortable now, but i remember her.

i wonder if, even then,
she knew i’d be the same.

but if i was innocent then
am i not still now? how white
do i have to be how clean are
my impurities how much am
i worth in riches? and if what
defines me is something we
shared then we have always
shared it and i was innocent
then, when we shared it before,
when i fell asleep in the pew
there was security in knowing
i was among a friend.

back next