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.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

mormoni

I could choose to allow Brad’s death to destroy my life,
or I could choose to embrace those who were alive.
I chose life,
for I wanted to make new memories,
not relive old ones.

Mother had convinced me I was living the best years of my life,
for I had found it so easy to make friends in the Church.
I wanted to tell David he was wrong,
that the Church hadn’t changed me,
for I had already been prepared for it.

Brownsville Assembly of God was situated in the seedy part of Pensacola.
“The Pensacola Outpouring,” as it had been known,
had become a national sensation when people
had started claiming supernatural healings.
Hundreds had renewed their faith & hundreds more had gotten saved.
David had said it was nothing more than mass hysteria,
calling the pastors ravenous wolves,
who devoured the souls (and pocketbooks) of weak lambs.

Religion was a show to Caitlin,
who was fascinated by the idea
of demons being cast out of people.
Her effervescent approach to what she deemed as
crucifixation (her term for religious fanaticism)
sometimes bordered on sacrilege.

I fancied the LDS Singles Conference like summer camp,
imagining Hayley Mills’ version of The Parent Trap,
except rather than sing campfire songs,
write letters home,
& make birdcages out of popsicle sticks,
I would not be coming of age,
but I would be of age.

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.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

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

mormoni

Hurricane season was a time
for deck & patio parties,
& swimming & drowning in alcohol—
if the waves did not get to them first.
It was a time of bluish-grey skies
lit up with lightning
that was like stretch marks.
It was a time of wind-chimes clanging—
a persistent, discordant percussion
of wood & metal & seashells—
as if each chime was trying to warn us
all at once,
the notes showering my hair like raindrops.
It was a time of preparation
before devastation,
& I wondered if my life thus far
of not preparing
but of being Daddy David’s little girl
would,
one day,
devastate me.

Joy had eluded me
since Brad had entered the waters
that had claimed him—
the waters Satan had dominion over,
according to the Mormons.
Everything was according to them now.
I prayed the rain would cleanse me from the guilt
that I had been sleeping as he been dying.
His body had washed ashore a few days later,
going out of the world as it had come in.

Asleep,
I was at peace,
for even in my dreams,
I knew they were dreams,
yet my dreams were where he lived,
for every time I went to sleep,
I was farther from that moment he went in,
& there was a part of me who feared to dream
of the night we met,
for it would be the last time I would dream of him.
How I wanted to sleep forever,
for forever upon awakening,
there would be those first few seconds
I would think Brad was still alive.

His hands were beautiful—
the hands of a pianist—
these hands that had held mine
when we had ice-skated together at the rink,
like some falling in love scene in Love Story,
except ours did not lead to a love scene.
His hands had prepared many meals
for our little family—
meals that had nourished,
sated,
seduced.
His hands had rubbed aloe vera on my back
the time we had stayed all day at the beach,
& I’d gotten sunburned,
turning my freckles into flakes of fool’s gold.
But no matter what his hands were doing,
whether they joined me to him,
touched what I put in my mouth,
or caressed me in places few touched me,
I had always felt his love for me in them.

Mother was curled up
with a cashmere throw on the sofa,
working on a crossword puzzle;
David was in the chair,
reading a red, leather-bound book
by some author only academics read;
Caitlin was on the floor on her belly,
flipping through a magazine
while snacking on a bowl of snow peas.
It was The Saturday Evening Post tableau
of the pampered lady of the house,
the professional head of the household,
& the teeny-bopper who was all popcorn & bubblegum.
Candles were lit all around,
& the chandelier was on dim,
softening the edges of the scene
into something like out of a storybook
of what families were like
in post-WWII white America.
Yet, the scene didn’t look like a family exactly
but rather, three separate people, coexisting,
playing their role for the unseen artist.
That was when I realized that my absence,
somehow,
solidified us as a family.

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.