Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

mormoni

Leann was not a kid person,
despite being in a Church that prized children
to the exclusion of everything else,
though Mother believed the Church would change her;
perhaps if polyandry were allowed,
Leann—who was like Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue at Twelve Oaks,
writing to a dozen elders at a time—
would meet the one elder who had not been conditioned
to want what she did not.

We were so unlike the Jonas family,
which consisted of a half dozen teenaged girls;
“Greater by the Dozen” was their family slogan,
for they were of the Quiverfull movement.
Leann believed all they needed was a set of sextuplets
to make them “Cheaper by the Dozen,”
so they would get a spot on 60 Minutes.
To Leann, big families were overrated,
for they lacked the intimacy of small ones.

We were archetypes in a stage play,
even as I felt those around us were stereotypes in a TV series.
Leann was known as the pretty strawberry one,
Kath, the popular chocolate one,
& I, the quiet vanilla one—
a Neapolitan concoction that perfectly completed one another.
As for Donna Marley,
who was known as Twenty-Seven & Unmarried,
she was the hot fudge, whipped cream, & cherry,
all in one.

Kath’s African lineage made her one of the most popular girls in the ward.
To Mick, she was the “white chocolate sista” he liked to tease,
& though Kath replied that she may have been a freak of nature,
he was just a freak.

Leann Sweeney,
who had come as Scarlett O’Hara
in the white dress at the beginning of Gone with the Wind,
had the kind of charm that was disarming,
whereas I felt like Melanie Hamilton,
with Elder Roberts as my gentle, noble Ashley,
who was as loyal to the Church
as Ashley Wilkes had been to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.

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

Life was marked with holidays & celebrations,
with weddings & funerals,
& the seemingly endless baby showers
that happened in the Green Haven Ward.
In early October,
there was Trunk or Treat,
when all the members would line up their cars
in the Church parking lot
& pop open their trunks filled with goodies.
These weren’t our neighbors
but the same people we saw every Sunday.
In this modern era,
we knew those who lived across town
better than those who lived beside us,
for Mormons surrounded themselves with those
who understood their lingo,
their culture,
& their way of life.

Leann Sweeney,
the smiley-faced girl
with the Shirley Temple curls
couldn’t bear to say no to anyone,
whereas Kath Wakefield,
the black albino girl,
was brought up to say no
& to say it often,
& then there was I,
who’d simply wanted Mother to say yes once
after a lifetime of saying no.

I rarely thought of my high school days,
which were like a Gaussian blur.
I had befriended the sheltered, studious girls there—
the ones who ate from brown paper bags
& hung out with their parents on the weekends.
They had invited me to Mass
but never to their house,
& it had never occurred to me to invite them to mine,
for I hadn’t ever felt I needed a friend beyond the hours
I spent at Green Haven Catholic High School.
Commencement was the last time I saw any of them,
but now I craved the type of friends who knew me
as I knew myself at home.

We appeared as the perfect nuclear family:
mom, dad, 2.0 kids,
all of us well-groomed & well-mannered.
It had meant so much to Mother
that we attend Church as a family.
Mother went for herself,
David went for her,
I went for Elder Roberts,
& Caitlin went for Elder Carmichael.

Though I had known David’s aunt & uncle,
Mother’s family was still largely a mystery.
All I knew was that she had been an only, lonely child,
whose father was Irish & whose mother was Russian.
On the top shelf of a bookcase,
that held all of Mother’s crystal figurines,
their picture was as familiar to me as my mother’s face,
& years would pass before,
by chance,
I would take it down to dust it,
only to drop it.
When I removed the picture from the broken frame,
I looked at the back,
hoping for a date,
only to see the names Clayton & Marjorie Maynard
instead of George Francis McCarrick & Katerina Kasparkova.
Through researching my family history,
I would learn that these people were strangers;
when I looked up my grandparents’ names,
it was as if they had never existed,
& I knew that Mother had joined a Church
where family history was prized,
only to have made hers a lie.

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

I was plunged into the water & arose anew.
I looked at my hands, which were still,
& that was when I realized the trembling was inside.

I had expected a sprinkling of water on the head,
not the immersion process I had just gone through.
Had one hair on my head come up out of the water,
I would have had to do it again.
I smiled at Elder Roberts,
for how wonderful was it that my future husband
had led me down the path?

He hesitated before baptizing David,
but my chaste young love knew it was the only way
to get Mother sealed in the temple
& on her way back to her divine origin.
It occurred to me then that
David had never loved God enough,
or even himself enough,
to give Him his soul,
but he loved Mother enough
to forsake everything
he had never believed in.
To get Mother to finally marry him,
he had to do it on her terms,
but when had she ever done anything on his?

David’s sparkling water glass was empty.
He held it, twirling it by the stem,
looking at it as though the answers
to all of life’s quandaries were there,
as crystal clear as the glass.
Caitlin was not with us,
for Mother, David, & I were connected in a way
that she would never be.
Her “otherness” set her apart,
& when I went to bed that night,
I realized had she never been born,
our lives,
as they were now,
wouldn’t be much different.

“To peace and love,” I said instead,
raising my tumbler in a toast.
“To love,” Mother said, smiling again.
“To peace,” David said,
& we lifted our glasses,
clinking them together,
the sound seeming to ripple through
the room in endless echoes,
signaling the beginning of the life to come.

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.

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.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

mormoni

My agreement to an interview,
which I suspected would be an audition
to become a member of this Church family,
began my vow of being true to the Church in this life,
only to be shackled to in the next.

My baptismal outfit
was neither a costume
nor a uniform,
but a sackcloth of humility,
for it shielded the world
from my femininity.

To the boy I loved,
I confessed my lack of sin,
finding it ironic that being a good Catholic girl
had prepared me to become an even better Mormon one.
When it was over,
he gave me a weak smile,
& I felt I had not only passed
the pre-baptismal test,
I had passed his marriage qualifications test as well.

I had been brought up to wait for marriage,
just as my Mother had often said she’d waited
for my father,
but it was different for widows,
for their virginity had already been claimed.
Though she had often said that she & David
were in a committed relationship,
I believed there was no greater honor
than to be called wife,
for the covenant had not only been bound
by the state,
but by God.

Elder Roberts looked at me in a way
I realized just then
that David had,
at times,
looked at 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 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

Thirty was the magic age Caitlin believed
she could do whatever she wanted,
whereas I had always felt like
I’d done everything I’d ever wanted,
if only because others had wanted it for me.

A boy whose parents vacillated
between the two religions of pro-creativity—
Mormonism & Catholicism—
yet had chosen to make Mick an only child
was bound to have issues.

I was a cultural Mormon,
a questioning Catholic,
& an uncertain Christian,
whose heart was a locked gate
through which anyone could see,
& forasmuch as Mick flouted the Church’s commandments,
I knew he believed in them.
He was just sinning now
with the idea of repenting later,
which I thought so very Catholic of him.

The missionaries were not allowed to go near the beach,
for Satan controlled the waters.
I wondered,
just as there was a God’s Army,
if there was a Satan’s Navy,
& if that was why baptisms
were not performed on the beach,
for what had been good enough for Jesus
was not good enough for them.
It was then I thought of Brad,
& how it had been the waters
that had claimed him.

How Now Ground Cow,
one of the few late-night restaurants in Green Haven,
had become our late-night haunt,
& we—
Kath, Leann, & I—
the three good little witches of Green Haven.
I had become a normal teenager
who didn’t always want to hang out at home
& who stayed out past her bedtime,
except instead of doing sex, drugs, & drink,
I was untouched,
clearheaded,
& sober.

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

Loving Brad in my way had been so easy.
I would never have that kind of uncomplicated friendship
with another man again.
I had already decided to move on to a life without him—
just as I had to a life without Elder Roberts.
The only exception was that I had loved Brad
& had lost him,
I believe,
because he had chosen me,
even as Elder Roberts had chosen against me.

The night of the Johnny Lingo luau
was a sea of modest swimsuits,
an expanse of Mardi Gras bead grass skirts,
& an ocean of plastic palm trees—
a wholesome activity
to keep us out of the lake of fire & brimstone.
The tableau was like a movie set
where everyone was ad-libbing.
We weren’t on the beach
but in the cultural hall,
where we would not possibly see
any scantily clad females,
for we were responsible for helping men
control their desires
by covering the flesh
that draped our lovely bones.

A 1969 BYU short film that reminded me
of The Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields—
minus the cinematography
or Brooke Shields—
at its soul,
was not about a girl who fought against the system
of being bought
but who bought into it,
given away by her father as property
to be loved, honored, & cherished
as someone else’s.
Though I had always seen Mother as a kept woman,
thinking my ugly thoughts about what that meant,
I was a hypocrite,
for I felt that David
belonged to me.

Like many ugly duckling stories,
3-cow Mahana
magically became beautiful—
with just a smile.
She hadn’t had to lose weight
or get plastic surgery;
there were no birthmarks,
burns,
or scars
to blemish the already perfect specimen,
& the knowledge that she was not worth more
but had been paid more for
than any other woman on the island
had turned her into a dark swan.
There was a certain irony that,
unlike the adage about buying the cow,
Johnny Lingo had paid for his
with 10 of them.

The pink lei I had been given at the door
which hung over my chest made me appear
bigger than a B-cup—
a symbol (or two) of fertility,
which was highly prized in the Church,
& I wondered if,
by having 10 children,
& smiling all through it,
I, too,
could be a 10-cow wife.

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.