I used to rue the church its opulence,
even if the gold and marble festooning
the local parishes were imported from
Europe, draining the Vatican’s coffers,
and consecrated for American empire:
now I don’t. Can you imagine the labor
involved in this, my dad used to marvel
while we knelt and prayed after receiving
the host’s transubstantiated body and blood
from the ostensory vessel and jeweled chalice
before rising to say concluding prayers, which
in the Tridentine Mass include the reading of
the first fourteen verses of Saint John’s Gospel,
the last gospel, as a farewell blessing. I knew
it was my cue when, afterward, the priest said,
“The mass has ended: go in peace to love and
serve the Lord,” to sing the recessional hymn.
In my mind’s eye, which is blind, I am seven
years old, eternally: ecclesiastic memory a
filament burning like frankincense and myrrh,
aromatic purification rituals recalling me to me.
O light, fleet feet of memory, return to the scene,
primal and primordial, of paschal candle’s liturgy:
Nude Nuns with Big Guns, a 2010 nunsploitation
film starring young Sister Sarah, neglected and
abused by a corrupt clergy that produces and
distributes heroin; when a deal goes bad, she’s
handed over to thugs to be used as a sex slave
and is dying after being drugged and wounded
when she receives a commandment from God
to acquire heavy weapons and take revenge
on those who use the church for personal gain.
What are you saying, I can hear my dad remark.
Oh nothing, as usual, I say. What else is art?
Virginia Konchan is the author of four poetry collections: Hallelujah Time (Véhicule), Any God Will Do, The End of Spectacle, and Bel Canto (the latter three from Carnegie Mellon).