My mother tucked me and my siblings in each night
reminding us of sin, told us to pray
warned us that the Devil was never
too far to hear or see our footsteps
no matter how much he had to drink
but if we were good girls and boys,
turned the other cheek
then God would chase him away
and save us, if we believed
repeated Our Fathers, Hail Marys
and Apostles Creeds then Mom and us,
we'd be in heaven - looking down
in righteous glory on our enemies
and all our suffering would be worth it
because we'd be together and safe
so, we'd fold our hands
bow our heads
and say 'amen'.
When I'd forget the next day
taking God's name in vain or
acting less than saintly
Mom beat the Lord into me
with the same hands she used to pray
She'd call me things like Satan or Demon
had me so convinced I smelled sulfur on my skin
each bruise confused with confession
like my broken blood vessels spoke
of guilt within, revealing a million
cells of transgression spilling
on the floor like rosary beads,
a trail of Our Father's judgment
leaking onto the linoleum.
Every night my sister and I would kneel beside our beds,
weave our fingers together
and in hushed tones ask God for forgiveness.
We'd apologize, saying we didn't know why
he wanted to test me, making kids throw bricks
at our brothers or tease us about my broken family,
We didn't know why he made our lullabies
the sound of breaking glass and fists,
didn't know why he let my teachers
lie about the kids at recess
and my parents deceive and hurt each other
leaving marks across my sister and brothers
until we didn't have a home anymore
and our house was just a case number
because he knew everything, right?
He saw every time my sister held me
when I was too scared to sleep,
saw my brothers
picking up the brick and throwing it back
and he saw me turning cheek after cheek
heard the clicking and beating
of my red rosary beads
and I was sure he had a lesson for me,
I just wasn’t looking hard enough.
So I looked. I searched Bibles and
books, chased strings between beads,
and it turns out I couldn't see the Grace
for the trees.
God was in the one place I'd thought
he'd forgotten about.
God was in my sister, letting me in her bed.
God was in my brothers, always standing up for me.
And God was in my parents too.
In my Mother, in the way she prayed so hard
and my Father, when he made pancakes
and over the sizzling of bacon, laughed
so you'd swear the whole house was shaking.
Though we handle each piece of our
broken home gingerly, minding our fingers
on the edges as we glue it back together
with forgiveness and awkward family dinners
ever aware of the skeletons in the corner,
I'm proud of being a Murphy.
Because we're a family.
We'll damn each other and save each other
with a love you can only describe as divinity.