Haibun For Womxn Who Are Told to Forgive

Disrupted Cannon, Colleen Simmons

The old church. Pastor X hits the podium until he beats forgiveness into our mouths. The word coats the tongue like a caramel in the heat. Sickly & immovable. A corner store for sinners. This is when I am a girl, taught to swallow pain like a lady should,

             pinky raised to God 

                          like a flag made of doilies,

             pale quivering flame.

I am ten when I walk by a man in the parking lot of that Italian restaurant (the one my father loved) & it is cold. I cannot tell where the smoke ends and his breath begins. In the reflection of the window, he watches me like a secret that cannot be kept. Tears the sight of me into something digestible, bread for famished ducks. I, too, pick at my food. This a ritual of God’s girlhood. 

             Like a wound forgives

                          a bullet, I close around

            it. Small yielding mouth.

Another time I am twelve, fourteen, sixteen, twenty. On a date, an older one grabs my wrist and tells me I’ve been a bad girl. At a church picnic, one rests his palm too far up my leg. Another follows me in the lot & laughs when he sees me clench my car keys like a sixth finger. Pastor X says he seen it all before. Girl ruins her life with immodesty, ruins it further with a grudge. He says we’re all God’s kids, even the whores and the handsy. In my anger I learn I am not a child. I am either Godless or a goddess. I am both. I am shame, miniskirt unraveled like a hymn that haunts the pews. Pussy poltergeist. 

             Now, I say forgive 

                          & a distant church bell chimes,

             weightless like cold breath. 

I point my eyes to a new hour. Watch the flocks of crows circle the belltower, as if to say watch, it will only happen again. I wait for God to lean against the mortar of it, eyeing me up and down as I walk quickly by,

             forgiveness the butt

                          of a menthol cigarette 

             perched between his lips.

About the Author

Grace Gilbert · SUNY Geneseo

Grace Gilbert is a poet, lyric essayist, and recent graduate from the writing program at SUNY Geneseo. She is now an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Pittsburgh. Her most recent poetry and creative non-fiction can be found in Ninth Letter, Anomaly Literary Journal, Twyckenham Notes, tilde, Maudlin House, Pretty Owl Poetry, Gandy Dancer and elsewhere. This piece first appeared in The Adroit Journal.

About the Artist

Colleen Simmons

Colleen Simmons is a 23 year old ceramist and illustrator drawn to faces and the human form.  These inspirations from the body manifest in her two-dimensional and three-dimensional work, where she finds surprising similarities in form. The curvy lines, circles, and soft edges she gravitates towards in her paintings and drawings translate into her ceramics work with dreamlike results. “Disrupted Cannon” first appeared in Collision.

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