issue 31 poetry

Self Portrait with Invented House of Worship

by Kathryn Petruccelli

Self Portrait with Invented House of Worship

Imagine a house. There should definitely be walls,
boundaries, how else to hold this story? A house.
Longing for home. Nesting. Maybe rent to own.
Discount for long-term lease. All that. A house
of worship. Except I get to choose what goes in
the windows. Forget the guy with the cross. Maybe
it happened. Doesn’t mean he’s my god. My windows—
they’re just color, you know? Blocks of orange and
rose with the sun shining through. Or sometimes
the windows are open. (I’m prepared to withstand
your disapproval around this.) The rain gets in.
Sometimes it’s cold. Up in the rafters—bats. They
sleep during the day, fly at night like holy messengers
seeking out their victims. I’m jealous of their wings,
so I wear robes that are made of all the things I know
with certainty just before I get out of bed and then
forget the second I’m on my feet. I can blind you
with doubt, help you see what you couldn’t before.
Stop fidgeting. Show’s about to start. Sit. There.
On the straight-backed wooden benches I haven’t
replaced because I have no better idea yet, because
I can be as beholden to tradition as the next person.
Picture it: when I was growing up, there was a spot
to the right of the altar where the band played.
Progressive hippie lovers of the holy spirit tuning their
axes, arranging their amps. That’s the kind of Good
News I could get into—like maybe we were moving
away from all the pomp and circumstance—old men
draped in table runners, raising and lowering their arms.
But it’s been decades. Not a lot of progress. Vaulted
ceilings are in these days. Scenes staged with orchids sell.
The smell of fresh-baked cookies. Mostly, I want
somewhere I can get mail delivered. That’s the deliverance
I’m after. And a place where when I crumble to my knees
it’s onto a tiled floor with a pattern I have some respect for.

Kathryn Petruccelli holds an M.A. in teaching English language learners and obsessions over place, language, and the ocean. Her work has appeared in the Southern Review, Tinderbox, SWWIM, Sweet, and others. She teaches writing workshops for adults and teens that strive to develop the emotional literacy needed for a better future.