Father once told me, hands
at his collar: face in a priestly
cast, eyes swelling with mission:
“Give me your confession, son.”

I told him what I thought, that I’d
had too many Hershey’s bars, I’d
taken the teacher’s pen from school,
I didn’t vacuum Saturday—

He furrowed, rubbing his frock.

“How do you feel about that?”
his eyes prodded, the priestly inquisition.

But what should I feel? Less?
—oh, yes: “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. With necessary
tears and all the conjuring of worthlessness
in OshKoshB’gosh—

“Go now, and sin no more—
your penance: four Our Fathers and a Hail
Mary. I absolve you, my son,
when your contrition is complete.”

Complete?

I must have prayed ten thousand prayers that day
—ten thousand bolts of sorrow for one measly candy bar.
I must have said ten thousand things I
thought the Lord would want to hear.

But all of it flitted into silence—

The only answer, coiled around the cross?
Be ashamed, my son. Be naked and ashamed.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned:
yes, oh yes, ten thousand thousand mortal sins
are heaped upon my fraying conscience now—
but is it any wonder I can’t make me right?

I’ve no clothes to keep me warm—
no spirit to ignite.