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Fall/Winter 2017

John Roche


I learned shame in the back of the Sacristy
with the other altar boys
and our grammar school principal,
the "Golden Boy" priest of the diocese,
who decades later would be sued for molesting seven altar boys.

Was I touched?
Not that I recall.
He appeared to prefer athletes to bookish boys.

Did I see anything?
Not that I recall.
Though a friend told me years later he'd walked in to see an altar boy sitting on Father's lap, pants to his ankles.

Did I hear anything?
Giggles and knowing laughs when I entered the Sacristy.
A couple of jibes aimed my way.

Did I feel anything?
Red-faced and confused.
The feeling of not being in with the "in-crowd."
The wish to be somewhere else.
Relief when I was told to go light candles or do some menial job.

And on the altar, while serving?
Knots in my stomach.
Clumsy fingers trying not to drop the consecrated bread.
Face frozen into a half-smile
to keep from laughing or crying or vomiting until Mass was over.

Did my mom say anything?
Yes, "What was wrong with you today on the altar? Were you sick?"
And, "He's been such a nervous boy of late. Maybe the altar's not the best place for him."

At the end of the school year
I hung up my cassock
for good.

John Roche divides his time between Rochester NY and Albuquerque NM. He and his wife Jules Nyquist are currently editing the Poets Speak anthology series for Beatlick Press (NM).



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