A Gospel

Stevie Howell is a poet, critic, and editor. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2013 Montreal...


That picture’s somewhere still: First Communion, 13 girls
in lace and satin “Like a Virgin” frocks,
legs crossed man-style under frills, floral hairpieces
           hanging flaccid over ears. Marrying God.

An overlit confessional, gilded chairs, Father Antony’s
embroidered bib, pew-fulls of frog-eyed
parents who’d endured years waiting for our
          exorcisms. This was just before my faith fell and

I stumbled toward Hari Krishnas at the Eaton Centre
causeway and paid $20 for a tome
they would have given away; tried to find in mock-leather
          what they found there, but it hid—

or snapped up free papers about “the 18,000 realms,”
and visited living room churches north on Bathurst
with congregations of passive mutes; or let the Bahai
          indoctrinate me on Bloor, one afternoon,

where they fed me channah in a muralized Olive Garden
basement. I left with a cassette
and a mental image of a saviour cresting a hill
          with a hankering for garlic bread.

My high school and university were poverty and violence.
A quadriplegic classmate lived in a Winnebago.
Her mother’s ex cowered in a laundry hamper with a gun
          and killed her after mass. That’s all I know.