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 Book

Mother’s wedding gown was a modest one,
with long sleeves & white lace that crawled up her throat,
making her swanlike neck seem longer,
even as the cut of the bodice
made her bosom seem almost invisible.
She looked like a bride around the turn-of-the-century;
the next century was coming in a couple of months,
& the New Millennium would usher in her new life as David’s wife,
which would place me,
having come of age,
as something between a stepdaughter
& something that defied definition.

As I gazed upon my mother in her bridal finery,
she turned to me & said,
“Someday, it’ll be you, Katryn,
& your young man will be able to take you to the temple.
Keep yourself worthy of him,
so when that time comes, you’ll be ready.”
She had turned back to the mirror then,
admiring herself,
reminding me of Snow White’s stepmother,
reassuring herself that she was, indeed—
with her eyes like dark chocolate Doves—
the fairest of Mormonland,
while I thought how much more loving it would have been
had she said,
Find a man worthy of you,
for it was something David would have said.

Mother’s bridal shower was held at seven p.m.,
or seven-fifteen, Mormon Standard Time,
with Sister Wiley as the mistress of a ceremony
that Donna found sexist,
as men weren’t allowed.
True equality, for Donna, was that men be as miserable
coming to these things as the women who came to them.
Sister Kyle handed everyone a safety pin as they came in,
while Sister Grahame helped Sister Wiley in the kitchen,
thrice saying Sister Wiley was the best cook in the ward.
These servants of the Lord
now served the sisters of the ward,
who trickled through the door like queen bees
with their Southern lilts that dripped with honey
& whose stingers sometimes came out at these things.

My eyes traveled around the room,
settling on each individual:
There was Sister Schafer,
pink elephants dangling from her ears,
as she worked for the local Republican party
& was a true blue, red-state conservative.
“A Christian Democrat is an oxymoron,”
was her campaign slogan for the Lord,
to which I knew Mother would have taken offense,
for David believed that even though capitalism
made a few rich,
it was liberalism that kept the many
from being poor.

A bridal shower in the Mormon Church
was like a G-rated bachelorette party,
where no man in a cop or firefighter uniform
would be showing up to remove it.
Donna had come for the free meal,
& had certainly not come
for the company of a henhouse,
where feathers often got ruffled
over the slightest slight,
without a rooster in sight.

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

Our souls had not been created
but simply given earthly vessels
for these diaphanous substances to be poured into.
We had existed before this life.
Because I had not joined the ranks of Lucifer
but of God during the great war in heaven
in the pre-mortal life,
I had been given a body—
only to have to prove myself a second time
that I was worthy enough to be reunited with it
in the afterlife.
It was alleged that memories of this premortal life
were forgotten when we passed through the veil,
with that first breath of life,
& it seemed like the Mormons were the recoverers
of repressed memories,
for how could I deny something
that I was told
I would not remember anyway?

Sister Kyle was floating on a cloud in Kolob,
she was so joy-filled.
When had the Baptists or the Pentecostals
or any of the other churches in town
ever reached out to me like this,
much less cared about me?
My eyes fell on many of the members,
all of whom were smiling & encouraging—
all except Sister Wiley,
whose expression was dark & cunning.
I believed then that it was because
she saw through me,
but only a faker could recognize another one.
She knew that I knew what she was,
even as I knew that she knew what I wasn’t.

A look of realization,
of incredible awe,
came over Elder Roberts.
“I—I think I love—,” he said,
but just then,
the double doors before us opened,
& the rest of his sentiment went unspoken.
I could only guess what he had meant to say then,
wondering had he finished it,
if things would’ve turned out differently between us.

Caitlin was holding her rosary,
the last vestige of our former faith,
as Mother had taken down all the crucifixes in our house,
for Mormons preferred to focus on the resurrection
rather than the crucifixion.
Mother didn’t seem to see me,
but David—
David looked at me as he always did—
with a love that changed not.

My eye was single to the glory of Elder Roberts—
to the promise of celestial glory.
Just as Elder Johnson had said our husbands
would call up their wives from the grave
to ascend into the celestial kingdom alongside them,
so would Elder Roberts,
in the name of Jesus,
call my name
& raise me up from my watery grave,
to prepare me for life as a future Mormon wife.

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.

Baptism in Birmingham

Two magnolias

You enter the doors of the temple—the kingdom of God on Earth. You know you’re unworthy, for you just had a shot of espresso before you rode the bus to Birmingham, which is why your breath smells like peppermint. Don’t you know that your breath only smells like coffee and peppermint? You know they’ve heard of a peppermint mocha, right? Of course, none will claim to know what that even tastes like, and they will hurriedly let you know if you happen to catch them at a Starbucks (especially on a Sunday), they will say they’re getting a hot chocolate, even though Joseph Smith said no to hot drinks. What about soda that’s been left in the car too long?

You are with the group of other Mormon church members from the Fox Run and Pine Forest wards (whatever possessed them to call churches “wards” and youth groups “institutes”?) who are there to do baptisms for the dead. How aggrieved you became when you had to explain such a practice to the Gentiles (what the LDS call non-members) for the umpteenth time. “We do not dig up dead people and dunk them in water. We do it by proxy,” you would say, only to discover that most people don’t even know what the word proxy means.

You discovered that no one hardly knows anything about Mormons but polygamy, even though they stopped that practice over a hundred years ago, but it hangs on them like the wet white jumpsuit will hang on you after you’ve been dunked for the fifteenth time for people you don’t even know—names that may as well be out of a phone book. Even though you think you have possibly just saved fifteen people who didn’t get the chance to hear the Mormon gospel (“the plan of happiness”) in this life, you can’t help but think that you look like a fatty in this jumpsuit.

However, you know when you step into the warm water of the baptismal font after having been barefoot, watching the same thing happen over and over, your feet will feel like they’re on fire, for they are always like ice in this castle, which will lull you into a state of what feels like suspended animation. Something is hypnotizing about repetition.

You’re supposed to be thinking about God in here but instead, you’re thinking about what you want to eat when you leave and how praying over fast food never hurt anyone. You’re thinking about all your tithing money going into these buildings that not even all Mormons can enter because they’re usually breaking the law of chastity or tithing. You’re thinking that this seems like a boring way to spend eternity, but it’s still better than the alternative. You like that the Mormons have three heavens, but if you want to have sex in heaven, you have to do temple work. Of course, men can have more than one wife up there, and you find yourself admitting that that’s pretty clever—what is against the law here, the government can’t control up there.

What happens with widows who loved both husbands? You think this is why families can’t work in heaven. You just want to be an angel, like Cary Grant (except still a girl) in The Bishop’s Wife, but maybe human-turned-angels are gender-neutral. That’s what would happen if you went to the terrestrial or the telestial kingdom. Your sexuality is taken away.

But if you are honest with yourself, you know you don’t believe in this Church—you just ended up dating that boy who broke up with you because you wore a sleeveless blouse; by the time that happened, you were sucked in. They are nice to you, unlike the people who don’t care about your soul—who like you for you.

It is your turn now, and you are thinking about how you can’t wait till it’s all over and you can dry off, and then they put their hands on your head and confirm those same names as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

You want to believe in all this so much, but it’s not happening; however, you won’t leave it all for another seven years, because one day, you went to Utah, seeking a husband, where there is every cut of white meat imaginable—Scandinavian, British, German, and a blend of many others—only to find something else.

You found your way out.

All these people who are with you today, you won’t even know ten years from now. When they see you in town, some will be polite enough to smile and say hello, but others—those who you were closest to—will act like they don’t know you, except you won’t care, for your experience with it all will make a great book.

I could come down and tell you all this, but you won’t believe me. You will have to find all this out for yourself, and because of all this, you will never really go to church again, except on Christmas and Easter. You will be a Christian without a church, like a man without a country, but you will be just fine.

You will marry a man who will not expect more from you than even God Himself does. You will be free to just be.

You will have one child, not five—at least that’s how it is in the year 2020. You still have a few childbearing years left.

However, when you find out that your child has special needs, you will remember something that you learned from these people: that the devil cannot touch such children, for they are innocent forever.

You will remember many good things and will be grateful that you were once one but are now no longer—that you are better for having come into it, just as you are even better for having left it. 

 

*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

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 from the Book

He was a gentleman,
for I had been the one
who tried to kiss him,
though he would never tell.
As I regarded him in the amber light,
trying to detect any change in his demeanor
that indicated something had occurred between us,
there was none,
& I convinced myself it had all been a dream.

Mother wore a nightgown now—
in training for the temple garments
she would have to wear always.
Magic fabric,
David called it,
with its special powers of protection.
I knew Mother desired another child,
but Caitlin had found
a box of condoms in David’s drawer,
still unused,
which meant either Mother & David
were having unprotected sex
or no sex at all,
& it was the latter
that made me happier.

Mother asked me to take over her puzzle—
a crossword from a woman I believed
didn’t have a clue.
I asked her to stay then,
when I had never asked her before,
for she wanted to leave me with questions
even she herself
could not answer.

Family Home Evening at our house
consisted of an opening & closing prayer,
with some scripture reading in between,
which was always a lesson or story
Mother would print from some computer software
that would tie into the verses we had recited
in an attempt to rewire our hardware;
Church news seemed to dominate
all conversation at the dinner table.
It had bled into our lives
the way Catholicism never had—
rebranding us as the salt of the earth
that had not lost its savor.

The power was out,
yet the air was electric. 
Mother was separated
by distance,
Caitlin,
by consciousness,
leaving David & me
alone—
I, longing for something,
for someone,
who had been made greater than God
in my eyes
& who would soon
belong to someone 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: Micropoetry from the Book

Like the Mormons,
Brad the Catholic,
the soon-to-be priest,
& my bosom friend,
relied on a feeling,
or rather,
my lack of feeling for him,
to enter a life of celibacy,
poverty,
& obedience;
the last two he had honored
because it was all he knew,
even as the first I had honored
because I had never known any better.

Twilight on the beach
signaled the remains of the day,
before the dregs of the night
were taken out like trash
with the tide.
There were no women sunbathing,
men surfing,
children frolicking.
Paradise wasn’t people
but nature,
for nature did not pollute itself,
& mankind’s abuse of it
would turn human beings
into an endangered species.

The yellow flag was up,
warning us of dangerous marine life.
We should have saluted that flag;
we should’ve respected it,
but it was as if I had a fever,
for I was delirious
with the sudden lack of sameness
my life had become.

The panorama of indigo,
burnt orange,
& the line between blue & green
was ever changing;
where sky & sea met,
marked the edge of the world.
I was the unnamed narrator—
having a moment
in the story that was my life.

He’d created it all.
Though other worlds might be,
there had never been,
as the Mormons believed,
another God.
There was no eternal progression
but eternal life—
when we were perfected in Him.
Mormon heaven was mortals
becoming God or Goddess
of their own planet,
but mine was inhabiting the one
God had perfected.

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: Novelines

Sometimes, I felt as if I would leave David, who had always taken such loving care of me, only to place myself into the hands of another man, and it was in that way I was like my mother.

I didn’t present another Katryn to Brad but simply another side of me.  He was the one who understood that moment of ecstasy I had experienced at St. Mary’s when I had shared it with him.  Kath and Leann had looked at me as if I had said I’d had sex with the ghost of Joseph Smith, for my spiritual experience didn’t fit the narrative of a typical Mormon.

“I’ll miss you, too, Katryn but as believers in something greater than us—good-bye is never forever.”

I’d never been attracted to the blue-collar type worker, though I admired what they did.  I liked my men more urbane—men who saved people from ignorance—even as men like these saved lives.  

I had no picture of Elder Roberts to remember him by, no proof that we had ever met, except in the memories of the unreliable narrators of my life.

Brad had wanted to be a firefighter, but he saw the priesthood as putting out a different type of fire—the type of fire that Mormons didn’t believe in, for eternal separation from God the Father burned enough.  Being a firefighter was what Brad had wanted but being a priest, he was convinced, was what God wanted, and He wanted what God wanted.

That day at the fire station and afternoon on the beach would be the last date Brad and I would ever have, for it wouldn’t do for him to dance his last with a girl who would fall in love with him, except it was him who was falling in love with me.

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

Mother was with David,
on a walk with God,
Caitlin was asleep,
surely running,
but I was as still as the silence,
waiting for something
to happen.

When it came to our figures,
Caitlin was the Audrey
& I, the Marilyn.
She had the figure
that could do justice
to the dance,
whereas I had the figure
that some feminists insisted
did an injustice to me.

The Church had stripped Mother of her formality,
redressing her in a tennis-style dress & mules.
She kept her hair pulled behind her,
making her look 10 years younger—
like an older sister
with whom I felt I’d been competing with
all my life.
She had taken her place in the sun,
even I had sought my space in the shade,
for her limelight had become too bright.

I had thought Bethany House
a haven for battered women,
but while the women were being looked after,
the men to whom they were married
were going through LDS counseling
with a male therapist,
in conjunction with
more spiritually-based counseling
from their bishop.
It wasn’t an escape
but a holding place—
the women there like foster children,
waiting for their husbands to reclaim them.

With Elder Roberts,
I had always felt compelled to be
someone better than what I thought I was.
Though I’d always believed
that the right person would bring out
the best in me,
so much of the good
that had been brought out
hadn’t been in me at all
but had been manufactured.
I was like a robot
who had allowed itself
to be reprogrammed
into something I did not recognize.

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

Known as “The new Dalton family,”
notarized by the marriage contract,
legitimized by the marriage vows,
& sanitized by not the rewriting of history
but the ignoring of it,
we lived as Mormons—
I, through deed,
David, through word,
& Mother, with her whole heart.
As for Caitlin,
she simply lived.

We still received news of Elder Johnson through the grapevine,
or the grapes of wrath known as the elders. 
Wariness had replaced openness with them,
at least towards us,
despite Mother & David’s morally married state. 
I held on to the memory of Elder Johnson,
for he had loved us then
before we had become us now.

Sister Schafer,
the quintessential administrative assistant,
had dispensed legal, medical, & real estate advice—
advising against divorce, birth control, & cohabitation,
& all without a license—
but who could question a woman
who was as close to God
as some were to their demons?

According to his mother,
Tony choosing to marry sooner than planned
rather than languish with lust had started a trend,
& would lead to less sin,
for he had followed the admonition of St. Paul.
After all, what was a bit of fooling around between him & his wife
before she had become his wife
if if prevented others from doing the same?

The acrid smell of burnt food hung in the air like barroom smoke. The haze seemed to soften the images—Ronald Reagan watching us enter the foyer, his eyes with that twinkle of merriment, almost as if he were laughing at us. David had always said that Reagan had been such a charismatic President because of his acting ability, though many of his University colleagues had debated whether the Old Gipper had ever had any acting ability.  

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.