by Jim Daniels
The ushers yank them open
with long poles, revealing dark stains
beneath their arms. Everyone stares up,
willing the hook into the hole, Even Father Mark,
coughing through listless steam of prayers, pauses
to nod when one silently slides horizontal.
My home run crashed through a window,
bodies disappearing as I ran the bases
from third straight home.
A stranger french-kissed me at the bar.
Reg tried to pull me away: You’ll regret it.
She lived with some guy. I took her to my place.
Sun shot through my curtainless window.
We shielded our faces. She wasn’t looking
forward to explaining things. We closed
our eyes and went at it again.
I rang the bells when the priest
raised the host, my hand
furiously jerking off for Jesus.
Fr. Mark decreed no rice thrown
at weddings—Birds eat it, swell up,
explode—another Bible myth—
the janitor refused to sweep it up.
If I ate my sins, would I swell, explode?
We were hungover and filmed with sweat,
booze, and our own fluids. She was thinking
of leaving him, she said. I couldn’t remember
how to pronounce her name—
Mee-gan or May-gen?
I bought a new ball. No one paid
for the window. Wind took the blame.
Impossible not to twist your neck
and look back, stumble, skin your knee,
slap a band-aid on, call somebody up
and ask remember me?
Reg was always right. Even when drunk,
and he usually was. Died clutching his chest,
as he said he would.
You can hide, but you can’t run.
I’ve never seen shit hit the fan
or birds explode. She was a rock.
I was a hard place.
I drove her home and sped away.
Don’t call me, she said, and I didn’t.
She killed herself—not over me.
The new church, air-conditioned.
What’s church without a good sweat,
a few woozy moments?
Show me your dark stains
and I’ll show you mine.
Father Mark married my classmate Debbie
and became simply Mark. I don’t know where
they got married or if anyone threw anything.
Back in the sacristy, I popped the snaps
on my long, black surplice, and when air hit
my smooth young body, I exploded.
The ball rose, sweet, soaring.
My run didn’t count.
I’m running. I’m sweating.
I’m telling the truth.
I didn’t regret it.
The high windows finally open,
I knelt gratefully on the altar steps,
the warm breath of sin whispering my name.
Sin, oh, I still ring the bells for it.