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Late Confession

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Monsignor, I believed Jesus followed me
With his eyes, and when I slept,
An angel peeled an orange
And waited for me to wake up.
This was 1962. I was ten, small as the flame
Of a struck match, my lungs fiery
From hard, wintery play. When I returned home,
Legs hurting, I placed my hands on the windowsill
And looked out—clouds dirty as towels
And geese I have yet to see again
Darkening the western sky.

Monsignor, a machine
Had painted on the eyes of my toy soldier,
Little dots off-center,
Almost on his cheeks. Such a cheap toy,
I drowned him over and over in my bath,
Drowned him until the painted-on eyes flaked off.
Then a leg fell off—surge of dirty water
Sunk him to the bottom.

I now at this age place hands on the windowsill,
My eyes nearly on my cheeks,
My belly with its rising tide.
There is no angel with an orange at the edge
Of my bed. There is no soldier
Of God. Only a pane between the inside
And the outside, between this living
And this dying. Monsignor,
Saintly man of this child's wonderment,
When will I see the geese again?

Source: Poetry (Poetry)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 1998 issue of Poetry magazine

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Late Confession

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