Wish I Could be Still

By Don Munro

Wish I could be still
but
legs, heart shake behind a podium,
voice jumps,
no control.
Pure fear,
potent.
its taste on my teeth,
despite my efforts to breathe deep,
laugh off this audience of writers
as just people, too.
Wish I could be still,
as I stand before them,
expose my words, my very core
and wait for them to clap
or be silent
or laugh
at my creations — at me.
Wish I could be still
the next time,
because even as I walk back to my seat
after the critique,
all glowing,
all applause,
I fear that I will shake again
from fear.

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?