michael mack poem "confession"

Featured in Best Catholic Writing 2007, Michael Mack's poem "Confession" is from his forthcoming work, Kingdom of Busted Furniture.


I loved the suspense,

Saturdays, waiting on pews

with ancient hunch-backed women


whispering into their fists.

I loved stepping inside the confessional,

an oaken phone booth


smelling of Pine-Sol, paneling,

kneelers lush as wine.

I could close the door to a silence


absolute, like going

deaf and blind at once,

sink to my knees in its velvet abyss.


Thwack! A panel slides back.

I see through a screen a hulking shadow, our priest

backlit by a dim light, tipping his hairy ear.


His face just a silhouette,

I hear his breath, sighs and soft growls

as he nods, urges me on.


Yes child?


Mouth to the screen I murmur

Bless me father for I have sinned,

unsure what sin is, or why it concerns me,


knowing only by rote:

mortal sin is a deadly sin,

venial sin a lesser sin.


Bless me father, I lied

three times, stole two times, disobeyed four times…


which is what I’d said the week before,

the week before that,

repeating the very example from catechism:


I lied three times, stole two times

till the week he swiveled and barked

What! Again!?

It stung, the rubber band

snap of his voice, and something inside me

squirmed like a lizard.


Guilt. Guilt,

the mark of sin, and I the sinner

twisting in its net.


I left the church head down.

As Daddy drove me home

I puffed on my window till it fogged,


doodled cartoon crosses, thinking

what I might say next Saturday,

how often till then I’d lie and steal.


Having thought it

(as Saint Paul wrote)

it was as good as done.

– michael mack