The distinguished-looking man sat with the woman who would pull the thread that would help me come apart at the seams through an unholy act.
Sister Wiley wore a mask of syrupy sweetness, but the mask didn’t cover her eyes that emitted a cold, calculating glare.
Glancing in Sister Wiley’s direction I saw, as she looked at Mother, something that resembled fear, for Mother’s new faith overshone her old one.
Like the kapps Mennonite women wore, both sexes wore sacred garments under their clothes, where only God could see them.
Mother had never had any use for girlfriends before, & I wondered why she had let Sister Wiley choose to be hers.
I saw something in Elder Roberts then that I often saw in David: tolerance; but it would fail him when I needed it most.
Sister Wiley watched us from across the room, plucking a prune from a pewter platter & taking a bite, smiling that Mona Lisa smile.
David wanted me to go to University, but the Relief Society (or, as Caitlin said, the Sisterhood of the Raveling Dresses) had me rethinking such an endeavor.
The day our Little Miss stopped being a drama princess was the day we would know her personality had finally split.
I’d never seen our secular, nuclear family as isolated, but rather insulated from the world. The Mormons made me see that we were the world.
The elder missionaries were priests;
I was a nun.
We could not touch but through words,
& I felt the trajectory of our family shift,
When I was a girl,
I saw Mother marrying David
as keeping him close to me.
When I became a woman,
I saw it as taking him away.
Just as they believed one could be baptized by proxy,
I wondered if, in my own way,
I wanted to marry David, with Mother as my proxy.
David would love the Church.
for Elder Roberts,
I would do the same.
He knew himself,
but I, to myself,
was a stranger.
Sister Grahame was the moderator
Sister Hatcher the observer
the elders, the participants—
all in an effort to socialize us into the Church.
Caitlin was 13 going on 17,
I was 18 going on 14.
I was sexually naive,
even as she was sexually savvy,
& it was, in this way,
I outpaced her.
When I accepted there might be a God,
I had all the answers I needed.
When I began to dabble in religion,
I was more confused than ever.
Though Mother was the solely converted,
we all changed by her changing.
The Mormons took her places
we weren’t sure we wanted to go.
Christ’s blood had been turned to water,
His body into leavened bread
that had been torn to pieces.
Their culture was Norman Rockwell-ish,
their language, without offense,
their borders open to all who would
obey their commandments.
The genders were distinct—
from heads of home to hearts of home.
They were black-&-white about such things,
the world, 50 shades of grey.
The Mormons saw the family
as the foundation for salvation, whereas
I saw families as something invented
for the orderliness of civilization.
The Separation of Men & Women
was like the Separation of Church & State,
of Law & Medicine,
for in separateness,
there was no Equality.
Men were home teachers,
women, visiting teachers,
& every member was a missionary.
In Catholicism, you went to Church
& then you went home.
The good life is one that is lived,
not through a screen,
but with hope of things unseen.
It is lived with purpose,
but without everything having to have one.
It is understood that every day
doesn’t have to be a holiday;
it is understood that holidays
don’t have to be the best ever.
The good life,
like any good poem,
doesn’t have to rhyme,
but is lived knowing that
one has a reason
for being here.
The good life is often lived never knowing
what that reason is,
but accepting by faith that one,
When the philosophers died,
their ideas died with them;
when the writers died,
their stories died with them,
& all that was left was the Here & Now.
She’d always said never again,
the make-up never quite covering the bruises.
When Ruby was placed in her satin box,
the artist of the dead made her look better
than she ever had in life.
She left them incentives in her will—
requests that would lead them to discover
greater things in themselves.
When he thought he had forever to live,
he strolled through life;
when he knew the day of his death,
& did not stop,
till the last dot
XXXon the ellipsis
XXXXXXof his timeline.
When the musicians died,
their music died.
Recording the past
was against the laws of the present,
so that the future could not be
dictated by it.
To me, family was every kind of Heaven:
celestial, terrestrial, telestial.
The father, the sun,
mother, the moon,
children, the stars.
Mormon Heaven was one of progressing personhood,
Protestant Heaven, of angelic spirithood,
for we were perfected in Christ’s sainthood.
I learned that babies were in need of baptism.
I learned that it was the dead.
Mormon Heaven was not a state of mind,
but on a planet; God was not a spirit,
but a Deity of flesh & bone, who had been,
as we once were.
Mormons reached outside themselves;
we sought the answers amongst ourselves.
We were an island with walls,
& they were the whole damn world.