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April 18, 2023 Poetry

2 Poems

Paul Jaskunas

2 Poems photo

To be an altar boy

To be an altar boy
you must be a little bad.
Stand up straight, hiding
your doubt in the priest
as you sprinkle his hands
with holy water.
Show off your pride
in the nonchalance of your step
to the altar where Christ awaits.
You’d rather drink up the girl
in the third pew than the cup of life.
Smile at the thought
as you sip the wine
under the eyes of the priest
who sees none of your evil.
You wish he did. You wish
you could show it to him,
but you’re a good boy,
everyone knows it.


Missiles over Indiana, 1983

On my back in October leaves,
I watched missiles in a private patch of sky.
Soon they’d fall and gently vaporize us all—
even our limestone house
with its warren of lamplit rooms,
where Mother had hung on the wall
our Hogarth prints and crucifix
and each night TV light
turned our six bland faces blue.

There would be no goodbyes,
no time for hugs before our ends.
In the fallout blizzard, my freckles
would melt away. So too my sins,
my brother and sisters,
and what remained of our days.

I picked up a red maple leaf,
crushed it in my fist
and with a mild smile
watched the dust slowly drift.

Then Mother called us in for dinner:
meatloaf, potatoes, peaches in syrup.

I stood, brushed myself clean.
How disappointing it was
not to have been annihilated.