Sweet Little Nothings

Inhale the future chocolate

When she’d been LDS—
a Molly Mormon on the outside
& some kind of nondenominational,
free-spirited Christian on the inside—
she’d had friends, good & plenty,
but when she’d lost her testimony
of Joseph Smith
& returned to her Protestant roots,
she reclaimed her creativity.
When she went back to school
at a liberal arts college,
where she was often
the red elephant in a room
full of donkeys
in varying shades of blue,
she realized that the life she was living
wasn’t a remake
but rather,
a sequel.

She Is

Girls

Raised on God & with the 2-parent privilege,
she recognized that she was who she was,
not just because of the choices she had made
but because of the choices those before her had made—
a birthright she sought to pass down to her children:
a stable home in an unstable world.
She had been given a set of rules,
of precious metals,
that became more polished with every use.
She was limited not by her integuments,
varying in color & texture,
nor had she profited from them,
for the grades she had gotten,
the stories she had written,
& the job she had been offered,
she had earned.
In a world that was surviving a natural disaster,
only to be thrust into a man-made one,
where order & change could not coexist,
living in 1984 36 years hence,
& in a world that sought to gaslight her
into hating how God had made her,
demanding that she atone for other people’s sins,
she looked inside herself & saw it was possible
to be neither the oppressed
nor the oppressor.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

mormoni

Elder Roberts would be baptizing me,
for I had chosen him.
His face brightened when I looked at him
as the other elders turned away to help fill the font,
straighten chairs,
& pass out hymnbooks.
When I looked at this elder,
I didn’t realize that I was looking at my past,
not my future.

Mother looked swallowed up in her baptismal costume,
while David, barefoot, looked so unlike himself,
the hems of the trousers rising above his ankles.
I couldn’t help but think he would’ve looked
more like himself in a toga—
like a conqueror & not the conquered,
for the white onesie the Church had them wear
was infantile & unflattering.
My gaze met his,
& I gave him a look that I told him I felt the same way.
Perhaps being seen like this by the other members
(the Seventh-Day Adventist church down the road from our house
still washed one another’s feet)
was their way of humbling us,
of stripping away our pride.
Mother never looked my way once,
seemingly oblivious that by doing this,
she was rejecting the faith of her fathers,
of her childhood,
& of her youngest child.

I wondered how David’s interview had gone.
I imagined him giving only yes or no answers,
causing them to wonder just a bit.
Our eyes met across the room,
& it was as if we were the only two people in it.
For that moment in time,
we understood each other as we never had before.
For love, we would bury ourselves in the waters of baptism,
drown ourselves in holy water,
only to be resurrected by a lifeguard in white pants.
We would arise from our watery tombs as changed people,
for our lives would never be the same.

I would pretend,
& he would pretend,
& one day,
we would realize the lie we had lived
had become the truth somewhere along the way;
the beautiful lie would have burrowed itself deep inside us,
until we could fight it no longer.
I felt the Church pulling at my heartstrings even now,
strumming a melody that was beautiful & painful—
beautiful because of Elder Roberts,
because of all these people here,
welcoming me into their Church family,
but painful because I’d want so much to believe in it all,
& yet faith complete would always elude me.

When I was a little girl,
I saw a peach & purple seashell in the ocean,
whole & perfectly formed.
I’d tried to get to it before the waves came & stirred up the sand,
but just as my fingers had grazed it,
the tide had come & reclaimed it.
I never thought about all the other little treasures I’d captured that day—
I’d thought only of the one that had gotten away.

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.

When Culture Shocked Her Back

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The so-called culture of the big city,
with all its restaurants, museums, & theatres
weren’t worth the price to live near them,
for eventually,
they, too,
would be destroyed.
Rather,
this girl from Poplar Bluff,
who found felicity in simplicity,
could be found under a peach tree,
reading books,
not burning them,
painting scenes,
not spray painting obscenities,
building things,
not destroying them.
She had the freedom to believe,
& express belief,
in order & reform simultaneously—
living not in The Twilight Zone
but The Outer Limits
in a part of the world
that hadn’t been beaten all black & blue
with red all over.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

mormoni

Sister Kyle pressed her palms together
& gazed at the ceiling rapturously,
seeing Mother & David as a Greek god & his goddess.
Sister Corbin rolled her eyes at her companion,
but even she seemed affected
by the new chapter that was being written
in the love story of Laurie Nolan & David Dalton.

My gaze fell on Sister Wiley,
whose eyes were on the elders,
seemingly oblivious to the two new souls
joined in happy reunion
& sweetest communion with God the Father.
She caught me watching her,
giving me look that chilled me
as much as it charred me.
I was no longer an observer
but a participant
in analyzing the seemingly perfect specimen
named Sister Wiley,
having already formed the hypothesis
that elder missionaries were what made her tick.
The real mystery was why?

A onesie served as my baptismal suit,
which was fitting,
for I was being spiritually reborn.
It was a white jumper, that,
because of my God-given endowments,
made me look twice my normal size.
Objects in mirror are larger than they appear.
The material was stiff,
with an elastic waistband,
so unlike the comfort & beauty of my christening dress.
If feeling like a frump made one feel humble,
then perhaps that was why so many women
hid their assets,
if not their talents,
under bushels of cloth.

For the Saints,
conversion was a process,
not an event,
where baptism was part of the process.
For the Others,
also known as non-members—
which made the Church sound like
some exclusive country club—
salvation was a lifetime membership;
for the Saints,
salvation was not a lump sum
but a lifetime annuity
you had to continuously earn
by paying into it.
Perhaps this was because The Others
believed they had the whole truth
& nothing but the truth,
whereas the Saints believed
that revelation from God did not cease.

Choosing God over family
made me wonder what God had meant
by honoring thy father & thy mother,
for what about when Father & Mother were wrong?
For Sister Corbin,
she honored hers not by blind obedience
but by honoring them in such a way
that she made them look like stellar parents.

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

As Kath, Leann, & I shared a plate of chili cheese fries,
the legend of Johnny Lingo was the star of the conversation,
& I realized how different I had been raised to see the world,
for where they saw a sweet story about true love,
I saw a story that reeked of sexism,
colonialism,
& antiquated ways of thinking,
for Mahana had allowed the first man in her life,
her father,
to diminish her,
even as she allowed another man,
her husband,
who had a hypothesis in which she was the experiment,
to restore her.
For me, a woman’s worth was unrelated
to how a mortal man measured it
but how the immortal One,
a warlock whose spell had cast a wide net
& made fishers of men,
measured it.
But when I examined this thinking further,
I realized that Jesus,
genderless or not,
had come in the form of a man.
The patriarchy was alive & well.

Kath’s grandmother was of the Pentecostal Holiness faith
& spent all day watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
When her Bibi beheld my bare shoulders,
I could see,
reflected in the eyes that were like limpid pools,
the stones that had been raised to Mary Magdalene
for letting her shoulders be touched,
even as I was letting mine be seen.

The sister missionaries had convinced us
that because Tony was allowed in Church
wearing his loud Rush Limbaugh ties,
I could show up with the braided hair
that made me look like a white-faced Cleopatra.
Sister Kyle loved the idea of the Mission President
flipping his wig (or toupée),
when he learned that Leann & I had attended church
in matching dos.
How ironic it was that the Church would celebrate Kath
wearing her hair like mine,
when it was more natural for me to wear it like hers,
without the chemical straighteners
that flattened the curves that comprised her integumentary identity.

As I gazed at myself in the hand mirror,
feeling like a movie star
& a bit like the Wicked Queen,
I knew this what it was like to have girlfriends—
except instead of a slumber party,
it was a sleepover;
instead of Truth or Dare,
it was Truth only;
& instead of romantic comedies,
it was unromantic dramas
produced by the Church.

Mother & David were getting baptized;
David & I with the water,
Mother with the Spirit.
“My greatest wish was that you would be baptized, David,”
& Mother mouthed the last word:
believing.

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

As spring was a time for renewal,
summer was a time for exhausting that renewal;
expectations, if not passions, were high
at the LDS Singles Conference—
where the meat market consisted of
cows, pigs, & chickens,
a few wolves in modest clothing,
& even fewer closeted cougars,
who couldn’t wait
to procreate.

Even tankinis,
when arms were raised,
could expose the womb’s
sacred flesh,
& immodesty led to the sin
that was second only to murder
but then,
100 years ago,
what women were allowed to wear now
would have been considered indecent then,
so Church rules changed with the times,
& it was only a matter of time
before they would change again.

The smells of hot dogs & popcorn
lingered in the humid, putrid air—
smells of humanity
that brought back that last day with Brad.
The flea market reeked like a wet dog—
this marketplace of cheap goods & cheap eats.
Just as antiques were old junk,
this was new junk.
Mother would say I was slumming,
shopping at a place where watermelons,
poorly-executed knockoff handbags,
& hematite jewelry with pendants the shapes
of unicorns, flip-flops, & yin-yang symbols
were the hot items.
Mother still preferred everything fresh & new—
straight from the factory & sanitized—
just like her new religion.

A gaggle of barefoot children with red faces
& dirty knees ran circles around me,
while a woman I assumed to be their pregnant mother
scolded them from her stall.
Her table was scattered
with butterfly bookmarks made of paper clips
& bows made of smiley-faced shoelaces.
In seeing how much this mother did,
I saw how little mine had done.

Life was an open-ended question,
for which I didn’t have any answers,
& a rhetorical one,
for which there was no answer.

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.

He is

Rose

He is the Bread of Life,
impervious to mold.
He is the Living Water,
who needs no filter.
He is the Light of the World,
whose power comes not from the grid
but rather,
He is the power.
He is the Good Shepherd,
who gathers wool,
even as He is the Lamb of God.
He is the True Vine,
who grew not from Jack’s magic beans
but whose leaves are plentiful
& whose fruit is like honey,
for it spoils not.
He is the Bridegroom who will never stray.
He is a King, a Prince, a Servant,
a Carpenter, a Physician, a Philosopher,
for He transcends all.
He is the part of God
who humbled Himself
to connect with His people
& who laid down His life for His friends.
I am who I am—
not just because I believe in Him
but because those who came before me
believed in Him, too.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

A priest in love with a mortal
could not be a good priest—
just as a missionary in love
could not be a good missionary.
Both were choices made by men,
who chose a Man over a woman,
& for those who said that God
was neither male nor female
had no answer to how anything but a man
could have fathered a child in a woman.

David was my lifeguard,
pulling me from the ocean of grief I had been floundering in
for being one of Brad’s sleeping apostles.
Perhaps Brad had gotten caught in a riptide
and hadn’t called for me
because he’d known I’d have come after him.
Perhaps he had saved my life
by not letting me try to save his.

Like a woman,
I didn’t know coordinates—
that which I could not see;
but I knew landmarks—
which I could.
Perhaps I had no sense of direction—
no sense of myself—
except in relation to my surroundings.
I hadn’t paid attention on the way to the beach—
just as I hadn’t paid attention most of my life
to what was happening around me
& to the people around me.
I had lived my life unaware & unafraid.

I often think about how different
our lives would have been
had I not been downstairs
at that moment—
closest to the door.
David would’ve defeated them
with some intellectual sparring
& sent them on their way;
Caitlin would’ve flirted with them,
scaring them away;
but with Mother,
I would never know.
Would she have been distracted
& told them, “Another time, perhaps,”
not meaning it,
or would she have done what I did?
Let them in out of careless curiosity?

David’s arms comforted rather than chastened,
& there was no rebuke in his voice,
only regret.
“I’ll take care of everything,” he said,
& I let him,
for he always had.

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.