Calling Home From A Phone Booth Outside A Pub In North Dublin
Despite an icy northeast wind huffing across the bay I sneak out after dark, after my mother falls asleep clutching her leather Bible, and I hike up the rutted road to the frosted meadow to stand in mist, my shoes in muck, and toss my echo against the moss-covered fieldstone corners of the burned-out church where Sunday nights in summer for years Father Thomas, that mad handsome priest, would gather us girls in the basement to dye the rose cotton linen cut-outs that the deacon’s daughter, a thin beauty with short white hair and long trim nails, would stitch by hand each folded edge then steam-iron flat so full of starch, stiffening fabric petals, which we silly Sunday school girls curled with quick sharp pulls of a scissor blade, forming clusters of curved petals the younger children assembled with Krazy glue and fuzzy green wire, sometimes adding tissue paper leaves, all of us gladly laboring like factory workers rather than have to color with crayon stubs the robe of Christ again, Christ with his empty hands inviting us to dine, Christ with a shepherd’s staff signaling to another flock of puffy lambs, or naked Christ with a drooping head crowned with blackened thorns, and Lord how we laughed later when we went door to door in groups, visiting the old parishioners, the sick and bittersweet, all the near dead, and we dropped our bikes on the perfect lawns of dull neighbors, agnostics we suspected, hawking our handmade linen roses for a donation, bragging how each petal was hand-cut from a pattern drawn by Father Thomas himself, that mad handsome priest, who personally told the Monsignor to go fornicate himself, saying he was a disgruntled altar boy calling home from a phone booth outside a pub in North Dublin, while I sat half-dressed, sniffing incense, giddy and drunk with sacrament wine stains on my panties, whispering my oath of unholy love while wiggling uncomfortably on the mad priest’s lap, but God he was beautiful with a fine chiseled chin and perfect teeth and a smile that would melt the Madonna, and God he was kind with a slow gentle touch, never harsh or too quick, and Christ how that crafty devil could draw, imitate a rose petal in perfect outline, his sharp pencil slanted just so, the tip barely touching so that he could sketch and drink, and cough without jerking, without ruining the work, or tearing the tissue paper, thin as a membrane, which like a clean skin arrived fresh each Saturday delivered by the dry cleaners, tucked into the crisp black vestment, wrapped around shirt cardboard, pinned to protect the high collar.
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