Catholic in America
As the incense clings to the air in great clouds,
stealing into dark corners
of stained wood and marble floors,
I watch the casket roll by,
and memories take me, unwilling.
It was here I knelt on red velvet cushions and confessed my darkest sins
and the venial ones, too.
Hats, white gloves made obstacle courses on the benches.
My summer uniform: a red bow tie, seersucker pants, white bucks.
After we begged for love to Christ-in-Agony, back at the apartment above Auburndale Plumbing Supply, a stream of aunts would come, hover around the stove, basting the roast, mashing potatoes.
They sang Irish ballads and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
The sour breath of Uncle Dennis, straining to kiss us, as we fought him off,
made me swear off whiskey.
A Lucky Strike, the clip of metal from a shiny lighter that got Patrick through the Battle of the Bulge in the war.
The talk was of Jack and Jackie, American saints.
A Catholic White House finally.
Canadian Rye in hand, uncles talked of fishing trips, concrete jobs and the blackies down South. "Jesus, would they just keep quiet?"
And the word "Cuba" made them shudder.
On the living room wall, the Sacred Heart, blood tear dripping, made me wonder.
All these years in heaven, and Jesus was still sad.
Did he want us to be sad, too?