Joanna Penn Cooper

Poem for My Religious Friend

The biblical follows her everywhere. Snakes around every corner. Dramatic thunder. Interceding angels. I guess life is just like that when you’re from Louisiana. I go on vacation with my religious friend and follow her to church the night before Easter. The vigil. She tells me it will be dark with bells and clanging, like that scene at the Masons hall in Peggy Sue Got Married, so I go willingly. It’s like that at first. I gaze upon the procession. I am in reverence of the high ceiling. I think that maybe I’ll end up a surprise nun, like Hayley Mills at the end of The Trouble With Angels, but then the second half of the service is dead boring. Blah blah sin, blah blah he did this for you. Episcopals … my religious friend mutters under her breath. That was the problem with church when I was a southern child and followed friends there, my mom at home studying her psychology textbooks or making pot brownies. Too much “you are not fit to kiss the hem of his garment blah blah.” Listen. Jesus would be happy for me to kiss his hem. What are you even talking about is how I felt when I was nine. Anyway, didn’t all mothers give of their bodies for all humans to be here? And keep giving and giving, if the kids are lucky, wiping butts, washing faces, gazing upon the smaller humans with as much consistent kind regard as we can muster? Take of my body. Here, just take it. Listening to the priest — who was really quite avuncular with his homily about enchantment and his kind regard — I am thinking what a big deal they make of Christ having bled for us. Didn’t every single mother do this, her body torn and bleeding for another human to enter? What if they preached about that from pulpits all over the country every Sunday? I tell my friend. We are walking around a lake. She is taking pictures of two black swans. I am the one with her head tucked in. Resting. She is the one resting but alert for what comes next. Library school Divinity school? Can you imagine if they preached that? Just love one another. Think of what a woman had to go through just for you to be here, I say. Exactly, she says.