by Kevin Sweeney
My pal David had the shits last night and doesn’t drive
so I took him to the dentist, past the Congregational
church on Woodford Street where my pal Jack married
a Protestant 12 years ago, a union recently ended,
so Jack is at the island cottage soon to belong to his ex
and she’s at the suburban house (on the market) where
they’d lived as white people who watched what they ate
and spent wisely. Now Jack is spent from his new
girlfriend, 17 years younger, recently divorced herself.
The Congregational church has scaffolding around white
pillars that greet entrants of whom I was one the day Jack
married Deb. I read St. Paul on love, the usual wedding fare, though this was the second for each. Problem was I’d missed
the rehearsal; Jack forgot to tell me about it then phoned from
the dinner, said, “Oh shit, fuck, shit” and made me promise not
to tell Deb. He told everyone I’d gone to the wrong church
at the wrong time as though I’d been 8 –10 Guinnesses into oblivion. Even Jack’s Irish once–Catholic family acted like
I was Brendan Behan. Deb, a business teacher at Forprofit U. with aspirations to pretense, had that cluck–cluck expression
of women who think men must be cowed to prevent
their ribald, slovenly, and impecunious ways.
The minister took for her homily the text of “The
Velveteen Rabbit,” what I expect from Protestants.
They’re always so happy happy joy joy a la Ren and Stimpy.
We Catholics, I tell David, know better. Five years after
Jack’s nuptials, his brother packed the truck, left his wife
and house and went West. Now Jack’s on the island with
a woman who might make him happy, and they’re fucking
like velveteens while the Protestants fill recycling bins
and say no to domestic violence in nuclear–free zones.
I give David some anti–shits pills I brought from home.
He’s a poet on a fixed income, also a converted Jew
who laughs when I say Catholics would never use
children’s books for wedding fodder — maybe something
like Luke’s gospel about “imminent tribulations.”
It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t fix the front of our church
too, but we understand it’s all coming down, turning to dust. Count yourself lucky if a dark–haired woman rides
the ferry across the bay and makes you cry out
oh baby, oh baby, one more time on a summer day.