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Issue 17 – Trinity 2023


From The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk

On an old story.


A novice never sees behind the gates.
It’s only those who take the veil can go
Through doors and chambers closed off from the world.
The paintings in the room of the Three States
Reveal beasts gnawing on the damned below;
The saving flames where infant souls lie curled;
And, high above those glories where stars spin,
The priests and nuns alone enjoy God’s light.
For, when nuns lie or steal, the deed turns white,
And priests, we’re told, cannot commit a sin.

The nuns would say prayers, there, and wait in fear
For summons to the dark confessional.
Then, would they kneel before the seated priest
And loose their vices naked in his ear.
When silence fell, he’d hiss a subtle call
And take their buried flesh as his own feast.
My first night in the convent, Père Dufresne
Used me thus, keeping me until the dawn;
Two others did the same, as he looked on
To draw his pleasure from my speechless pain.

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About the author

James Matthew Wilson

James Matthew Wilson’s most recent book of poems is The Strangeness of the Good.