I vomited over the front pew
as Monsignor Lorenzetti gave the homily.
I tried unsuccessfully to stop the flow
with a winter scarf, yet he didn’t alter
his message to one of modesty and restraint,
and pressed through stale childhood terror.

Luckily, the school nurse was not a nun,
prescribed flat ginger ale, not Hail Mary’s.
But I did my fair share, reciting prayers
after obligatory confessions of strange little sins,
the type that taught how to survive
in a world without hymnal responses.

In that small school, four out of five Jennifer’s
surveyed agreed, a good Catholic seventh-grader
suppressed saliva and fear, bile and desire,
complementary blood and joy. We practiced
the art of questioning ourselves, never
authority, with its cool knife-pleats.

Twenty years later, would the priest recall
my young face, moved by ceremony
but never belief? I pause each day to weigh
whether I’m a good daughter or sister, to wonder
how he managed to deliver a mirror from heaven
with a wooden border that reads know thyself.