*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: Micropoetry Based on the Book

mormoni

He should have been
upstairs with Mother,
not downstairs with me,
but her sleepwear was
a barrier to intimacy—
& surely, David,
being a virile man,
yearned for sex.
Yet here was I,
a poor substitute for companionship,
for it wasn’t just sex he wanted—
it was sex with her he wanted.

The greater
the number
of children
the King & Queen brought
into their little piece
of temporal Christendom—
the richer they were,
for they weren’t just bringing
God’s spirit children into the world
but future missionaries—
little earthly saviors,
who were indoctrinated
from Day One.
Happy was the woman
whose womb was an orchard,
& the man
from whose basket his fruit
did not roll far.

I did not want David to sire a child,
for Mother was already his queen,
& I, his princess.
I did not wish to be dethroned,
becoming not a modern-day Cinderella
but a latter-day stepdaughter—
I, who had never claimed his flesh
& who could never claim his blood.
Mother held all the cards,
for she could claim the first,
her child,
the last.

David knelt before me,
his gaze worshipful,
his affect absent of guile;
the diffused light smoothed
the lines in his face
that were as familiar to me
as the lines in my hands.
He did not need a child,
for he had his child in me.
When I asked about my little sister,
he looked over to where she lay—
like a snow angel up north
or a starfish down south—
& said he felt the same for her.
but I did not believe him.

Despite my joining the Church,
Caitlin remained Mother’s favorite,
for they had always had their Catholicism to share—
that magical world of patron saints,
Mary sightings,
& the unseen man in the box
who listened to everyone’s problems
& made God remember them no more—
turning the Creator into a selective amnesiac.
Mother blamed herself for raising her in it,
even as she believed David was to blame for my non-belief,
for the sins of the children were visited on the parents.
Mother had taken upon herself the sins of her children,
even as Jesus had,
thereby equating herself with God the Father Himself.
It was,
in a way,
nothing short of sacrilege.

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 from the Book

mormoni

The Angel of Death had paid his visit,
& now my Angel of Life,
my guardian angel,
my David,
remained.
The words of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”
played in my mind,
& it was David’s face I saw,
brighter than the sun.
I had prayed for him to come.
Either he or God Himself
had heard my prayer
& heeded it.

Upon my father’s brow,
my mother planted a holy kiss,
bestowing upon him her blessing
to proceed into the next life—
a procession he had not consented to.

David had kept Patrick from me—
had spared me from a life of resenting my father,
of visiting him in the hospital for hours
rather than his grave for minutes,
& yet,
Mother had predetermined that no matter what,
I would resent this man
even as I would love David without condition,
for such fulfilled her purposes.

Mother would’ve never divorced Patrick
or had the marriage annulled,
for she could not be forgiven for an ongoing sin,
but she could be forgiven for that single sin of flipping a switch,
so that she no longer had to live in sin.

I trusted David with my heart & life & body
as surely as I trusted God,
whoever he was,
with my soul.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

The candles in the chapel had burned out,
the smell of sulfur was strong.
I called out to God in the dark,
& He answered in David’s voice.

The Church was the lie that led me to the truth.
Had the Church never happened,
my parents would still be alive—
one living a lie,
the other, just lying.

I had experienced salvation at St. Mary’s—
not through my works,
but through an act of faith
in which a wondrous work
had been wrought in me.

The Church had touched that part of me that was spiritual,
David,
the part that was sensual,
& Mother,
the part that was psychologically fragile,
for I was a doll that had been broken
in many places,
without realizing I had been broken at all.

I did not want to short the Lord,
because for giving His all,
He asked for 10 percent of my income,
a seventh of my time,
& my whole heart.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

David was divine—
a father, like God,
a brother, like Jesus,
& a feeling, like the spirit
the missionaries spoke of—
the feeling that converted.

The crucifix served as a focus
for my self-induced hypnosis
as I convinced myself that
this 3-headed entity
called “The Godhead” existed.

I saw in God the Father,
a father;
in Heavenly Mother,
a woman of awe & mystery,
& the mother of the One who saw me as His.

I had just now given myself permission
to believe in something I could not see,
simply because I wanted to.
I was free—free to believe in Him.

I was ready to accept Jesus into my heart,
whether He existed or not;
I accepted the idea of Him,
& when I did,
He came,
& stayed.

Fiction Friday: Novelines from the Book

Catholicism was the older sister of Mormonism: The Catholics had their pure nuns, touched by none, the Mormons their women, touched by one.

David’s face was bathed in beams of light, looking like one of those angels on Christmas cards. It was his face that eclipsed the moon. My eyes were at half-mast, I felt drunk as if with strong wine. I was the hypnotist’s stepdaughter, mesmerized by eyes rather than a pocket watch.

I called God as my witness that night at St. Mary’s, that David & I would be static characters in the dynamic play we were being written in.

Though we were all invited—we could not enter heaven unless we brought the temple recommend, or invitation— which is how Brother Wiley put it.

The man I thought was Jesus told me He’d been waiting for me all my life, & led me up the aisle like a bridegroom—the moonlight, my veil.

“I am who I am,” the figure said, & when I entered his arms, the smell of sweet spices permeated my being, & I was in a euphoric state, awash in a wave of an ecstasy I hadn’t known existed.  My breathing had become shallow, my heart beat faster, & I cried out, “Oh, God!”, & awoke in David’s embrace.

The scent of the man David was like incense to my soul. I breathed him in. There was a very visceral part of me that wanted to take him in.

This rapture didn’t spirit me up to Heaven, but rather, gave me a sense of belonging on earth I had never felt before.

I ask not for signs and wonders from You, God, but I will accept that You do, indeed, exist, and that Thou lovest me.  Through faith alone, I will believe.  That was my Doubting Thomasina prayer.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

When Mother married David,
it was for them.
When she would die as
the result of a lethal conception,
it was for them.
Everything she would ever do
for would be for them &
because of them.

I was in love with a boy I didn’t understand,
but the boy who understood me,
I loved as a friend &
could only love as more
in the absence of all the others.

When I was a child,
I was childlike.
When I became a woman,
I would set my child aside,
for I was still a child myself.

Snapshots were captured moments,
portraits, created moments.
The former was for families like theirs,
the latter, for a family like mine.

I had never taken a walk with Jesus,
like the Protestants.
I had never spoken to His mother,
like the Catholics.
Rather, I sought the head of the
Heavenly household:
His Father.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

Mother had become an entity—
a Thing to Be.
Her properties were fine,
her features, refined,
but as much as I tried to pour myself
into her mold,
I would not come out quite right,
for she was made of the right stuff.

The Mennonite women had their kapps,
the Pentecostals, their long skirts,
but the Mormons had their garments—
the men & the women.
There was total fashion equality.

Catholicism was built on tradition—
an ageless woman bedecked with jewels,
her robe stained glass—
a fragile coat of many colors.

They fasted to strengthen their resistance to the flesh,
but ate to strengthen & nourish their bodies.
They got an education not just to be prosperous,
but to be more like the God who knew it all.

I had been taught scripture for educational purposes;
now I learned it for a spiritual purpose,
for knowledge was the glory that was God.

Fiction Friday: Novelines from the Book

Life as a Mormon had a sameness to it—a consistency I found comforting. A part of me felt I had come into the world belonging to the Church.

My friends in the Church had had a life prior to Mormonism, & so a part of me wondered if the Church was simply a gathering place for like minds to meet.

“Only the true Church would tell you to go to the Source, instead of asking you to take their word for it,” was Mother’s testimony.

There was going to be a talent show at the ward Christmas party, & it was then I looked in myself & saw I was but a consumer of talent.

My mother had become, in many of the brethren’s eyes, a woman of great piety—a saint—but not in the Catholic way.

Mother had dethroned Sister Wiley with her lowly humility to become God’s Royal Highness.  To be a queen, she had to first be a servant.

Sister Wiley’s star was dimming, even as Mother’s was burning brighter, becoming a red giant. The Church was a black hole swallowing her up, turning her into one, for no light could escape her.

Caitlin had woven herself into the fabric of the squares with the Green Haven Ward, sometimes keeping us in stitches.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

Faith was the acceptance
of things that could not be proven,
& hope that our faith
would get us those things
from that which could not be proven.

He’d wanted no children,
but he would have them
for salvation’s sake,
for his wife’s happiness,
& because,
in the Church,
conception was akin to birth.

In Catholicism, God was everywhere;
in Mormonism, He was not.
He’d gone from limitless
to contained
as the sole Ruler
of this world,
in an eternity of worlds.

My friend Brad would’ve given up the priesthood for me,
David, his own soul,
but Elder Roberts,
not even his reputation;
I had meant that little to him.

If my heart was hardened,
had God Himself hardened it—
like He had Pharaoh’s—
to bring about His work?
Was not autonomy an illusion?