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.
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
It stung, the rubber band
snap of his voice, and something inside me
squirmed like a lizard.
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