Poetry – Honorable Mention

FAITH, by Jan Harrington

Aunt Patty didn’t really believe in God.

She was just hedging her bet, she said, because

who knew? On lucky Sundays,

she took my older sister and me to Mass

at noon, then out for glazed donuts.

She never remembered her chapel veil.

This will have to do, she’d say,

bobby pinning a lipsticked tissue to her hair

as we entered to incense and organ.

She used the seated interval of the sermon

to organize her purse on the pretext

of searching for loose coins

for the collection basket. In light

from windows dimmed by the lives of saints,

she rummaged. The unclasped mouth

of her purse, the black cavity

of its interior, was as mysterious to us

as the tabernacle. We couldn’t guess what

she would toss on the pew next:

an eyelash curler missing

its rubber half-moon, a can of Slimfast,

a movie magazine, pages furled,

red licorice twists, a doorknob, a boar bristle

hairbrush—the only kind that didn’t split

your ends, she said.

One Sunday she pulled out a girdle, stockings

snapped to it. You should’ve seen Jimmy and me

last night, she whispered, dancing…

She twirled her hand

and silk legs swayed in midair as if moved

by the Holy Spirit. We always left at Communion.

It was the moment at which, according to her,

we had fulfilled our weekly obligation.

As the believers rose and filed

to the altar, hands folded at breastbones,

we stole toward the back door.

What’s the point in staying, she’d say,

we know how it ends.