*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.

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

20200107_115742

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

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.