Church of the Immaculate Conception
Because the massive side door is slightly
ajar at 6 a.m., I decide to pay a visit,
to inhabit my past. Inside it could be night.
Old women kneeling. Perfume thick as mist.
To my surprise the man with the purple-red
stain on half his face, a birthmark or a wound
from his war, is still sitting alone at the end
of a pew, a man who disappeared as soon
as Mass was over, barely pausing to bend
one knee, his close-cropped hair now snow.
Penance is the only coin that’s never spent.
He could be only a shadow or even a ghost.
I genuflect. Touch the pew. Turn around to go.
Unclench my fist. Drop a few coins in the box.
—Tom Sexton (c) 2012, from Bridge Street at Dusk
Tom’s book may be ordered at www.loompress.com
web photo courtesy of jenandtommy.com