When they indict another priest
in Cincinnati, my friend thinks of her son
who is six, who sat with Father Geoff
in confession, she says I thought
they were done hiding it, after—
It’s easy to think, when you have a boy
that he’ll be made of the kind of rock
they use to build monuments.
My neighbor played football, was coached
by a priest who was later accused. His mother
who works for the Parish asked him,
did anything ever happen to you? And when
he said no, no of course no , she was satisfied,
put on her leather slides, clomped her way
into the building where they keep crossing
off names and sealing the evidence.
You could say she filed it away.
When they heard about the rape, they let Father Geoff move to the elementary school.
We all liked Father Geoff, she says.
My friends, my kids, we all
Because the first man who touched a woman was already tainted.
Because sometimes God can’t see you.
What should we tell our son who comes to us
with a Bible in his hand, what should we give this boy
who is kneeling open mouthed before an altar,
who is taught to shout his transgressions
into the ear of someone who will send them to God
on a little paper airplane of thought. Our boy who
believes anything can be absolved, who sees every
outstretched hand as a blessing.
Justice is a clothesline where a mother hangs
the dirtiest linens, brownest shittiest linens,
is a mother saying this is yours now, God—
wash it clean.
What is a boy but a song we’re
taught to keep singing
and forgetting, a hymn
written in water, the lines
on the back of a hand, and in
his eyes there’s God or else
in his eyes, there’s light or else
in his eyes there’s justice.
Because a boy sees more than God can, even in His flock.
Because somewhere, even now, a boy is being chosen.
Because it’s never only God who looks away.
Sara Moore Wagner is the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award, and the author of the chapbook Hooked Through (Five Oaks Press). Her poetry has appeared most recently in The Cincinnati Review, Tar River Poetry, and Nimrod, among others.