Thursday, March 11, 2010

St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

By Brittney Corrigan

Nine-thirty tonight and the Episcopalian youth
sprawl themselves on the carpeted steps
before the altar; women and men who belong here
cross themselves as they move down the center
of the church like a bloodline. And I
curl my fingers together, guarding the triangle
of my pelvis, never having crossed myself
before, not even knowing which shoulder
comes first—my fingertips being more familiar
with the length of my hair, the lids of my eyes,
my breasts. I lower my head not in humility
or prayer, but out of inexperience and the weight
of uncomfortable silences. Sixteen-year old boys
sit with their arms on their knees,
their heads in their arms, looking
as if they carry the weight of all of America’s
youth on their backs, and the voice
of the tenor rises, bells into this space—
the high ceilings, the arched windows, the open
doors. Once, in a Catholic church, I sat
with my sister while the Communion line
formed, feeling conspicuous as angels,
knowing the dryness of my body, the emptiness
of my mouth. I want to prop my feet
on the kneelers, know why the same sixteen-year old
who smokes behind the school between classes,
holds girls’ breasts in the palms of his hands,
sits here looking like he knows something
I will never know, like he believes in the full drone
of the bass, the fine male harmonies, the murmured
words as ingrained as nursery rhymes. The choir
files out, robes gathered at the throats of old men, young men,
like the anticipation of a note between
pitch pipe and voice, and I unknit my fingers
to brush the hair from my face—the eyes
of the boys again raised upward, cast
into the world like a confession, or a song.

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