Lynnie Brost and I, washing our sins away in the bathtub
and singing of it to the strains of holy music
from The Back to the Bible Broadcast
on the radio in the living room.
My older sisters stretched out on the porch
reading Photoplay and giggling
at our penitent antics,
feeling no need
to confess the sins
of Vivian dances
and the back seats of cars.
At the age of five,
How could we articulate our sins?
The tiny plastic sword—a wingless caduceus
I’d filched from a junk drawer where hundreds resided,
rewards for the cancer drive her mother supervised.
My mother head of the Sister Kenny Polio
drive, where rewards were merely
of the conscience.
How I had wanted
one of those
had I not just asked for one?
back in our innocence—
back when our sins were the least.
Back when in our minds, the value of what we wanted
was linked as much to how much we wanted it
as to its material value.
That two-penny sucker taken from the open jar
in the Peck family’s remodeled basement.
My mother asked where I’d gotten it.
My ashamed confession,
that long trip
No problem. That’s what they were there for.
But my mother,
knowing the power of the little sin,
was teaching me the dangers
of its contact.
What could it hurt,
sugar packets pocketed at Starbucks,
extra ketchup and mustard scooped by handfuls into purses?
Little sins overshadowed by the big sins of this world
and yet, somehow, shameful in their pettiness.
Drenched in these small sins,
what contracts do we,
To steal from the rich and give to the poor,
then display our generosity on our lapels
by the scarlet badge of the caduceus?
Noble Robin Hoods, we justify
by our assurance that
those who need most to learn
become instead our teachers,
educating us that their own sins are justified—
what we ourselves would do
if only we had
Prompt words today are articulate, contacts, drench and penitent.
The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem that “involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time, focusing on imagery, sound or emotional content.”
Here are the links: