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On First Communion Day


A year of catechism lessons to distill
My eight-year-old soul for God,
Had led to so much anticipation for the moon-
Like wafers that would magically transubstantiate.

The array: an illustrated children’s missal
With gilded edges; a silver rosary;
Lace gloves; satin pouch; gold chalice pin;
A tiara of blossoms and a poofy silk gown.

The day finally arrived: a jubilee of blue
And sunlight. My mother, who for days
Had been preparing the meal for after mass,
Had scrubbed me clean with pink Camay.

Brushed, powdered and dressed me up in clouds
Of tulle. Then she had accompanied me to the rose
Garden of the rectory, where all my classmates were
To meet. The nuns lining us up. Moms taking photos.

As we climbed the stony stairs of Santa Maria
Maggiore, we glistened, a white pageant of beads
And sequins twinkling rainbows in the sun.
We entered the ancient portal through a choir

Of solemn hymns. Admonished to be silent.
Walking in pairs as we had so well rehearsed,
To our designated pews adorned with bows.
The priest, in ceremonial garb, waited

To begin the rite. I partly heard the words,
Taken as I was by my attire and by my friends
All whispering and fidgeting while trying
To follow protocol. And while I reveled

Entranced by this display of white taffeta
And glitter, unforeseen, a bumblebee appeared
Weaving in and out of veils. Some squirmed.
Some turned around to warn the rest. A sway

Of heads. Bending. Ducking. Worried of the sting.
The nuns exhorted us to be still. Shooing
The bee out of our midst. But all the rest was lost
And in its wake, uneventful, communion came and went

Followed by concluding prayers and our walk back
Down through the church doors into noon light;
To crowds of parents kissing us; to almond confetti & coins;
In an unloosing of bells, laughter and chatter

As we all made our way home. The bee too
Must have found the flowers it had sought
In the honeysuckle scent of jonquils and calla lilies
By the altar. Maybe she had mistaken our soap scented

Cheeks for blooms. What a little hell raiser!
God in the guise of a furry, black & yellow little wild thing.
Dreaming of hexagons and honey. Making chaos.
Alive through the dusty dogma of words.

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