Priests joke among themselves about certain kinds of communicants. To some priests, we're snapping turtles because we close our mouths too quickly, instill fear that we'll draw blood, scar knuckles, or worse, they'll lose fingers, cut off by our teeth. Plungers leap forward. Dancers rise onto their toes like white wading birds lifting out of water, long necks extended. Others receive communion on the run; they don't stand directly in front of the priest but rather, keep a safe distance, as if they can't wait to get away. If our sins are menial, our priests will smell them from afar, faint but lingering, flash each one of us a quick disapproving look: the pens we steal, hate letters penned to families that don't let us in; selfishness, a given; bad thoughts we've had since childhood though they've changed, grown bigger breasts and heavier balls. Standing squarely in front of the priest, I cup one hand and place the other on top to form a throne. Forgiveness reminds me I should be cleaning the refrigerator, washing the toilet, bleaching my teeth or sucking in my stomach, everything left undone that will ultimately put me in the purgatorial donut hole to eat my way out. But today we look as dried out as mid-January Christmas poinsettia. Neglected, impossible to give away, the big bright red bow and gold foil, our only hope. We know our sins by rote. They begin as part of a wide unmarked road that narrows toward the front of the church, where for a moment, I perhaps too eagerly offer my hands, and the priest holds back the wafer for a second because for that second he wants me to know he's part of the road. And maybe you will remind him of a turtle or something more sad: a 1960's Mr. Machine toy with see-through nuts and bolts and a sluggish main spring, head tilting back, mouth opening. Hanging his vestment in the closet, the priest chuckles to himself. He'll want to share his impressions with the others---the always something we do wrong, which, after coffee and Danish, he'll put his finger on.
Pushcart Prize recipient and Founding Editor of Four Way Books, Dzvinia Orlowsky is the author of five poetry collections published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including Silvertone, Convertible Night, and Flurry of Stones, co-winner of the 2010 Sheila Motton Book Award. Her first collection, A Handful of Bees, was reprinted in 2008 as a Carnegie Mellon University Classic Contemporary. Her translation from Ukrainian of Alexander Dovzhenko's novella, The Enchanted Desna, was published by House Between Water Press in 2006. She teaches poetry at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College and at Providence College.