Mary Jane Nealon
“I dream of an ideal confessor to tell everything to,spill it all:
I dream of a blasé saint.” — E. M. Cioran
I don’t discuss impure thoughts and acts.
I want forgiveness for small abandonments:
my brother left alone after surgery to tie his own shoes.
My saint, apathetic, sits on a rock near me,
his gown falls between worn knees. He yawns,
he’s seen worse: men drawn and quartered, women
burned at the stake. And then I leave him, even.
Infidelity, a gift I learn well.
I cheat on myself with myself,
confess my mixed emotions for the human body,
for the way I stand by and watch things happen.
For invasions, large and small: thin needles, chest tubes.
I watch primitive rituals and call them science.
I search the faces of the dead for answers—
Where have they gone to? Why are they cold?
My saint, meanwhile, signals me.
It’s easy at the bedside of the suffering.
I’m good at what I do. But my sin is this:
I use the dying to understand where my brother has gone.
Each time I touch them I am studying their bodies
for clues. And the little prayers I say are always for myself.