Inside the Confessional
Saturday afternoons we went to Confession.
That gave us all day to play.
The dirt got to be soft with kids going back
and forth, a perfect spot for playing marbles.
With a stick we drew a circle in the dirt
and in the middle of the circle was a hole.
We aimed at the hole to win.
We fought over cats eyes and keepsies.
Sure, there was cheating in that small place,
leaning down in the dirt. We got really
sweaty in the summer playing there.
After, our mothers turned on the sprinklers
and we rinsed off so we wouldn’t have to take a bath.
Inside the church, by the darkened booth,
a line would form for the nice priest
who gave easy penances: three Hail Marys,
that was it, we were off scot free,
safe from the licking flames of hell.
Monsignor McDowell never had a line.
He said our tongues would turn to worms
if we kept up our lying to our little brother
about where we kept our candy.
We held our breath and lied about our sins.
Once inside, we were invisible,
hidden from the world, just us
and the plaited rush partition that let
our sins into the priest and his forgiveness
fly out to us on the other side.
We listened for the sound of the shift
of the slot. Then we would begin
to list our wickedness. The penance lifted
the grit and washed the tiny flecks of mud.
All clean, we were free to go out and sin again.