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by Damien Cowger

During forced hours of catechism, she dangled
her feet, unconsciously, across from me at a donated card table.

She liked to stare, while the rest of the children discussed
their days and their dares, at the dollar-store

framed print of St. Anthony of Padua.
Her mouth smiled like she knew

something, but her eyes seemed to scan the image
for a sense of what loss truly meant and if she’d ever feel it.

Brown metal chairs of tithing stood on cold tile.
Mine was always wobbly. She never looked at me

even though I prayed, so often to the wrong saints.
One prayer in a winter of unanswerables. She never looked

at Father Mike, either. Just sat, quietly counting
each finger on each of her pretty little manos.

Over and over, counting, mouthing numbers,
in between the Lord’s Prayer and too many Hail Marys.

Every forced week, I’d enter from the bright day and begin
searching for her. Hoping that this would be the week she counted

on me, or that I’d get to see my name tumble from her
lips. At ten, she had already lost something, and I wanted it to be me. 

 

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