Catholic in America

Incense hangs in the air in great clouds,
stealing into dark corners
of stained wood and marble floors.
I watch the casket roll by,
and memories take me, unwilling.
It was here I knelt on red velvet cushions and confessed my darkest sins
and the venial ones, too.
Sundays of pork pie hats, white gloves made obstacle courses on the benches.
My summer uniform: a red bow tie, seersucker pants, white bucks.
We begged to Christ in eternal agony for his love.
Back at the apartment above Auburndale Plumbing Supply, streams of aunts hovered around the stove, basting the roast, mashing potatoes.
They sang Irish ballads and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
The sour breath of Uncle Dennis, as he strained to kiss us,
made me fear whiskey.
His Lucky Strikes, the shiny metal lighter that made that clipping noise, got him through the war.
The talk was of Jack and Jackie, American saints.
A Catholic White House finally.
Uncles spat drops of Canadian Rye and talked of fishing trips, concrete jobs and the “blacks” down South.
“Jesus, would they just keep quiet?”
The word “Cuba” made them shudder.
On the living room wall, the Sacred Heart, blood tear dripping, made me wonder.
All these years in heaven, and Jesus was still sad.
Did he want us to be sad, too?