Field of Daydreams

Her dad saw it as paying her respects;
for him & her mother’s mother,
the daughter went,
but never alone,
for she paid her respects every day
she continued to be someone
her mother would respect.
She didn’t need to see Mom’s name on a slab
to remember her,
for those who tended the graves of the fallen—
whether in combat
or long after they had honorably served—
honored the stones of the dead
that appeared to burst
from the gums of the earth
like teeth,
so polished & white,
the enamel worn off in places.
Some markers had crosses,
others, stars of David;
some had infinity symbols,
for belief in infinite beginnings,
others, atomic symbols,
for belief in a finite end;
innumerable other symbols
of faith or unfaith were unfamiliar to her,
though she took comfort in knowing
that in this hallowed ground,
these men & women,
despite who they served,
were equal because of what they served.

Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Novel

For she’d rather forsake her child
than face rejection from the father of that child,
even as God had seemingly forsaken His Son
to the world that had rejected Him.
For Tony’s sake,
Kath, being the vessel,
would let the world mark her the sinner
to save the sainted one who had filled that vessel.
She would bear the scars of his sin
in the form of stretch marks
& a giving away of the one whose heart had beaten
in tandem with hers.

Tony had used her to relieve something other than his bladder,
but he was empty,
& he filled Kath with that emptiness,
for what he gave her,
took from her.
I had to believe that he should want to do everything in his power
to protect her & the part of him she carried,
for how could a man create an existence
& not be responsible for that existence—
just as if he had taken a life,
he would be accountable for those that life had left behind.
I believed we should be held accountable for our creations,
just as we were for that which we destroyed,
& when they were one & the same,
such was the most grievous sin of all.

To love a child as a child of God was one thing,
but to love a child as one’s grandchild—
to be included in the inner circle
of the second most sacred space,
to add them to their list of descendants
& will them an inheritance from their ancestors—
was something else.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Novel

Kath & Tony tampered with the sacred powers of procreation,
a sin that,
according to the Church,
was second only to murder,
for it dealt with life—
not just the premature creation of it,
but sometimes the destruction of it,
when that life was inconvenient.
Though Tony sheathed himself
like a knight in latex armor,
if a drop went through the eye of his needle,
he would be rich,
for he would have to marry Kath—
a woman who loved him for him
when no other woman ever would.

Talking to the Bishop about having sex with your boyfriend
was like inviting a stranger to watch.
Kath & Tony held off on confessing,
for what good was it to debase yourself,
only to sin again?
To get it out of their systems,
they christened the Church parking lot after hours,
their deeds hidden by the trees.
My blood had never run so hot for someone
that whenever I was around him,
I felt I would burst into flames.
Though I felt warmth when I was around Elder Roberts,
I did not burn;
he was more like a cold drink on a hot day.
Our love was pure;
it did not consume us.
Our passion would come after the commitment,
for that was lasting love.

The latter half of November
that year of my Mormon soldier
consisted of Leann tracting (or proselytizing),
or going on trade-offs with the sister missionaries,
& Kath and Tony seeing each other in secret.
Though Kath and Tony had made love,
she had yet to see him without his garments,
as some devout Mormon couples
never saw each other fully unclothed.
As for me and my house,
we served the Lord of the Mormon Church.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Novel

Every Mormon a missionary
meant that every deed had an angle—
some were acute,
& others, obtuse,
but a negligible percentage was just right.
In the Catholic Church,
helping the poor was their way of showing
how great God was,
but performing acts of service in the Mormon Church
was to show how great the Church was.
Including Books of Mormon in military care packages
seemed like taking credit,
for the ubiquitous Bible spanned all other Christian denominations
so that no one church could claim it exclusively.

Unlike the Catholic Church with all its pageantry,
its stained glass windows & ornate architecture,
& the Baptist Church with its ultra-modern megachurch facilities,
the Mormon Church was spartan in comparison,
for they claimed to believe in truth, not traditions.
The Mormon meetinghouse was a building that looked like any other,
save for the crossless steeple & the sign with Jesus’s name on it.
The Mormons had convinced me for a time
that spending money on large & fancy buildings
would be put to better use to serving the community,
but then I remembered Jesus & the woman
who poured expensive ointment on His head,
& one of His disciples chastising her,
stating that such could have helped the poor.
That was when I saw these uniquely & fearfully made buildings
as honoring the One for whom they were built.
It was in this way that these churches were akin to the Mormon temples
that the brethren & sisters called God’s house—
these temples for whom entrance was available to the few
who passed the LDS litmus test.
Many would say the Mormons
were better than the Baptists,
but it was only because they had to be.

I was an eavesdropper,
a voyeur,
but the romantic scene made me ache
to share such intimacy with a man.
I had once fancied myself as a nun,
for I had believed that to be a woman’s highest calling;
now I fancied myself as a married woman,
surrounded by large brood,
for in the Church,
married motherhood was a woman’s highest calling.
Like the sinners they were,
my friend & the one she loved retreated further into the dark,
for what they had done could never be brought to light.

The game room at the end of the hall
was like the light at the end of a very long tunnel,
& down the rabbit hole, I went,
feeling like Alice,
getting larger as I drank from the vial
that would not cure my curiosity
but make me crave to satisfy it more.
Mick & Mart,
always the players,
never the spectators,
had monopolized the ping pong table for an hour
before I realized Kath & Tony had disappeared.
I knew they hadn’t gone outside to play
Ultimate Frisbee in the parking lot
but had gone somewhere in secret to play other games.

Though Kath was the only woman,
Tony treated her like the other woman
because she was “The Other.”
For her,
he jeopardized his soul for entrance to celestial heaven
& his grand standing in the community.
His parents were uncomfortable with the idea of biracial grandchildren,
for Green Haven was predominately White, Protestant, & Republican,
& those who fit into all three categories tended to be
the most prosperous citizens.
He was a giant frog in a small pond,
having hopped from lily pad to lily pad;
he wanted to become the prince of Green Haven,
& I knew he wasn’t sure he could do that
with a wife of known African heritage.
Though Kath’s skin was fairer
& her hair lighter than mine,
it was what was under the skin
that had defined who she was in it.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

He is

Lily

For even as He grew in Mary’s womb,
He had not disappeared from the heavens
of the preconceived & the immortal,
nor from the earth beyond the veil of birth;
He, who was limitless—
limited by neither time nor place—
did not possess,
but came by invitation only.
For those of the New Testament,
He was the Spirit of Christmas Present,
the Old,
the Spirit of a Christmas Yet to Be.
For the planet walkers of today,
He is the Spirit of a Christmas Past—
a spirit who remains ever present,
even as, like books, symbols of His death
are burned or banned,
even as His words are,
like books also,
rewritten or translated according to the times.
He was the literal Son of Mary,
yet her spiritual father.
He is the masculine,
the Immaculate,
the embodiment of The Overcoming.
He is the lone lifeguard who can save
from spiritual drowning,
the storyteller of the common person,
the pescatarian.
He is who He is,
but for many,
He is whoever they imagine Him to be.

*Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Book

Pride was frowned upon in the Church,
for when God had spoken from Heaven after Jesus’s baptism,
He had not said,
“Behold my Son, in whom I am proud,”
but “Behold my Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
However, Donna smiled upon herself—
prided herself—
on being the most liberal Mormon
with a temple recommend,
as she was known for having NCMO (non-committal making-out) sessions at her house.
Though a part of me admired her tinkling the brass,
I realized that she was probably still
the most conservative person outside the Church:
She had found the place where she could stand out,
even as I had found the place where I could blend in.
As I looked in the mirror at my modest self,
feeling like a woman worth more than many rubies,
I realized that the Church,
with all its traditions, structure, & rules,
notwithstanding the one about falling in love with missionaries,
was made for me.

Because Sister Wiley was a lifetime member,
she would be believed over a convert any day,
for a convert had been born into the world,
undoubtedly tainted,
rather than born into the covenant,
practically sainted.
Converts were basically immigrants,
though no one stopped to consider that because converts
had chosen the Mormon Church,
their choice had been an informed one.

Institute was the Mormon version of a youth group
for the YSA’s (Young Single Adults),
except the purpose wasn’t to become closer to Jesus
but to find an eternal companion.
Jesus just happened to be part of the package,
for at the center of Mormon life was the nuclear family,
& the brethren had stated they couldn’t go below their average
of at least one temple marriage a month.
Institute was a meat market,
displaying the finest cuts of the missionary cloth.
The lure for me wasn’t the prospect of Tony Schafer & his ilk,
but a new ping pong table & refreshments
& the chance to beat Tony at the game,
for I craved friendship & inclusion,
even validation.
To beat the unbeatable Tony,
who fancied himself at table tennis in an air-conditioned room
rather than on the tennis courts in the Deep South summer,
would make me a heroine
because men like Tony—
men of the Mormon patriarchy—
would be unable to abide a woman beating him in anything.
Banging him, however, was another story.

Kath looked like a South African queen
with her Rapunzel-like hair that exceeded the whiteness of the sun,
& Kath,
in her fancy,
saw her outer whiteness as the inclusion of all colors
& her blackness within as the exclusion of them.
I was colorblind,
but I was not blind,
& knew that even as one side would try to forget her heritage,
the other would never let her.

Service was at the heart of Mormon charity,
even as helping the poor was at the heart of Catholic charity.
As Brother Startzel regaled us with anecdotes about his service as an Air Force pilot
& his grandmother’s service as a WAVE in World War II,
I thought as David did: that military service was not Christian service,
for you served your country with the former
& your God through His children with the latter.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

*Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Book

He was still staring at the picture,
or rather past it,
& I knew that’s where his thoughts were—
in the past he rarely shared with us.
Mother had made Caitlin play the piano
since she had been old enough to sing “Frere Jacques,”
even though Mother, as a child,
had been forced to play all the time to keep her hands busy,
for idle hands, according to her mother, were the work of the devil.
If idle hands were the work of the devil,
then Mother had done his bidding for years,
letting David be her hands for the both of them
in the hopes that perhaps her belief alone
would be sufficient grace for him,
even as his labors of love would sanctify her indulgent indolence.

That night placed my mother on the trajectory
that would change her life as I knew it,
for David had left her a note:
You won’t ever have to play for me.
Her bewitching beauty had cast a spell,
her piano playing akin to the voice
of Andersen’s little mermaid,
enchanting this prince of an unknown palace.
David had heard the melancholy in her music
flowing through her fingers
& wanted to dispel it,
believing he was so like God,
he could banish it from her soul.
The music had not set her free,
but enchained her to David forever,
for he always found us.

She had met David the day before she was to marry my father.
He had separated her from her piano,
which she hated,
to the man she made my sister and me give laud,
whom she’d never loved.
David had never separated her from anything she had loved,
even as what she would come to love—
the ideal that the Mormons preached—
would separate her from him.
He was the wedge,
even as I would become the hammer.

I had never doubted Mother’s love for my father until that moment.
I became David’s priest as he confessed his love for her,
even after she belonged to someone else.
The woman I knew as Laurie Nolan
believed in honoring her father & mother,
but the woman who had been Annie Laurie McCarrick
had honored them in public when she had married Patrick Nolan
but dishonored them in private when she had continued to love David,
to pine for him alive
as she had never pined for my father dead.

There were no grandparents or aunts, uncles, & cousins
to call us on birthdays or visit on holidays.
I had never known the joy of getting a card in the mail
with a ten-dollar bill inside,
or the delight of listening to stories
about Mother & David as children
from those who had known them as I never would.
I had never known the adventure of sleeping
in any house other than mine.
I had never missed this lack of extended family before,
but after the Church came into our lives
& I saw how it was with others,
I wanted that kind of dynamic for myself.
Mother & David, like Patrick, were trees without branches—
reaching high but neither wide nor deep.
The sounds of another life were muffled,
& the sights hovered on the edge of my peripherals.
It had all been different somehow.
We had known our neighbors,
had once had friends.
Just what were we running from?
David hugged me to him, & I held on,
wishing there were no more secrets between us.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Micropoetry Monday: Random Acts

20190807_182139

She broke the Rule of 3
by having 2 kids,
looked both ways
before crossing a one-way street,
& never listened to her gut—
it didn’t like pizza—
& who could trust something
like that?
She showed her husband
that rule makers
only created
rule breakers;
taught her kids
to never trust drivers
in a world
where cell phones & cars
coexisted;
& told anyone who’d listen
that guts over 35 inches
didn’t know what
they were talking about.

Calendar took life one day at a time,
whereas Clock lived in the moment.
When they crossed paths
at a Timekeeper’s Conference,
they saw the value in their vocations,
for she was responsible for a person’s D.O.B.,
he, their T.O.D.

She saw the faces of angels in the clouds,
of family members in the wood grains of her cedar chest,
& secret messages meant for her in the books
that had been given her by friends—
all watching her & warning her,
so that she never felt alone or lived without certainty.
Some say she suffered from paranoia,
others,
from mere pareidolia,
but she would say that she lived in a world
that spoke to her personally,
surrounded by the divine & the dead & the little things others missed
because they didn’t know how to read between the lines.
In this world, she felt the peace that had eluded her as a child—
before she’d been touched by an angel,
before she’d found her birth parents in the cemetery,
& before books had opened her imagination to the possibility
that all things were possible.

*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

For the Mormon women of Green Haven Ward
that November day of 1999—
in the circle of condominiums known as Washington Square—
home of Mindy & Carl Wiley,
a consensus was reached:
If the wearing of the lingerie led to the act of procreation,
the ends justified the means.

A restlessness began to stir within me that winter.
I began to change as the leaves did.
I began to imagine what it would be like
to be independent of my nuclear family—
the power plant that had given me a rock
upon which to build my life,
if not my faith.
I wanted to be strong & independent
when Elder Roberts came back for me,
but I couldn’t pray to God about it,
for if the Church was true,
He would be against our love.
The only comfort I had was in knowing
that God’s will was not always done.

Contentment had been my life before the Church—
enjoying only the contributions of others
while contributing nothing myself.
Mother had her Church & David,
Caitlin had her piano & dance,
David had his art & professorship,
but the Church had made me want more,
& so I had to be more.

The three of us stood before a Mormon temple—
a tableau of what I felt was another time,
a time of bygone days:
A pastel pink rose rested on a black, baby grand piano,
& sitting before the piano was a woman
whose back faced the viewer,
adding to the painting’s mysterious quality.
Long, luxurious dark hair fell not in waves but ripples,
like the notes I imagined flying from her fingers.
Something about the scene was familiar,
but I couldn’t place it.
I blinked, & the painting was as it had been before.

She had been Annie McCarrick,
but I had only ever known her as Laurie Nolan—
a dark beauty who had reinvented herself from the poor only child
of an Irish father & a Russian mother
to become a common hausfrau to an Irishman like her father,
to the uncommon paramour of a man so unlike any man,
whose identity was as mysterious as his past.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.