Changing the Name
One Sunday while his wife was at church
my great-grandfather let his son choke
on a chicken bone while he absently mopped out
his tavern’s Saturday night stink
then drank himself out of the bar, dying
in a freight elevator in Uniroyal’s rubber stench.
When I missed my plane in Grand Rapids,
too stoned to read the watch face, I had to stay
an extra night, lighting and blowing out
imaginary candles while my two babies
back home kept my wife up talking in tongues
about their stoned old man.
Great-grandfather Julius Danneels
got divorced, changed the name to Daniels,
gave away his pet monkey,
but nothing erased the boy turning blue.
I inherited the watch Julius won racing pigeons,
a fancy piece too complicated to fix,
yet I hear it ticking.
The Short Version of the Lost Sheep
They refused to treat me for clap at the free clinic
in the old church where in eighth grade I’d played
spin the bottle with cheerleaders.
I masturbated in the choir loft, dreaming
of the Handmaidens of the Altar.
A nun accused me of egging the school
when I’d only given it a dirty look.
A high wooden fence sheltered their rumored
undergarments in the convent yard.
Their habits black and white.
Ours were sinful, camouflaged,
compromised. I enjoyed getting paddled.
Altar wine tasted like candy gone bad.
I couldn’t touch the host even when it stuck.
They never explained what happened
to the Holy Spirit’s shit.
My envelopes had numbers on them
to trace a refusal to give.