Cinthia Ritchie


       For Cathie

"The body of Christ," you said,
placing a jellybean in my mouth,
your hands winter pale and smelling
of cardboard and paper chains
and those thin, flat dolls we ordered
from the Penny's catalog.

"Amen," I replied, sulking because
I never got to wear the bathrobe
(stolen from a brother and smelling of a strange,
vibrant salt) and be the priest,
walk through the hallway
with an unlit candle balanced above my head.
Younger, thinner, I was doomed to the lesser roles:
the parishioners, the students,
forever guilty of not following the rules.

During confession, I was the sinner,
kneeling on a pile of books,
an old lace tablecloth over my head
as I screamed out sins so vast
spit sprayed our hands: "I stole, killed,
coveted the neighbor's husband,"
and how we laughed, we almost cried,
thinking of the pig farmer up the road, 
pants pulling away from his hips,
the hairy expanse of his ass
like a sweating foreign country.

It was so funny, the things we didn't know,
the sins we could only hope
to one day commit. We loved
the dark fascination of the priest's voice
when he spoke of hell and temptation,
the tantalizing hope that we would
somehow be led astray. We longed to suffer,
offer ourselves up like the saints,
our breasts on platters, our stomachs
racked with hunger,  
our flesh bruised and bleeding
not for God
but for our own selfish selves.

Each week, we walked up the aisle,
stuck out our greedy tongues
and accepted that stingy morsel of bread,
sucking out the moisture until our cheeks sagged
with the effort of not swallowing,
almost as if we already knew
the things we would do,
in just a few short years,
the sins we would commit,
with the dark, secret holes
of our mouths.

Previously published in Sho

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Publications: Conspire, Wicked Alice, Clean Sheets, Dare Magazine, Mind Caviar, Girlphoria, Inside Passages, Explorations, Wheelwatcher Companion II, Inklings, Scarlet Letters, Ophelia's Muse, Ice Floe: International Poetry of the Far North, Horse Thief's Journal, Retrozine, Sho
Occupation: Editorial assistant/freelance writer

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