Holy Mother
Julien Longo

My mother told me he was in heaven with God.
I spoke to him out loud, played with him
on the swing set while alone.
He was a good, invisible father.
Then my friend invited me to church.
That’s God’s house, she said.
I told my mother I wanted to go.
Why? Because.
Are you sure? Yeah.
She put me in the dress and pretty shoes
my grandmother bought
for birthday parties, Friday nights, Chanukah.
In church, I looked down all the rows
and high up, in case he was floating there,
an angel in God’s house.
All the people got quiet, looked towards the stage
and I did too,
perched on the pew anticipating our host.
A small man in black came out
and read. He yelled. We sang.
The organ played, people knelt.
I held my friend’s hand, tight, shutting my eyes
against picture windows
and the statue of the man on the cross.
That’s Jesus, God’s son.
I was worried for the man. The people.
My father.

That night my mother read me a story.
Resting my head on her chest,
I smelled her tuberose skin,
let the rise and fall of her breast
soothe me to sleep,
closer to God and my father
than I had ever been.


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