Eloise Klein Healy, “Redeemed”
Author: Poetry Editor
July 9, 2011
In this week’s Poetry Spotlight, two new poems from Eloise Klein Healy.
And we shall all be in our good bodies, washed in the blood of the Lamb. And Christ shall come from a golden cloud and sit at the right hand of the Father. And the Father shall call out our names and in an instant all our sins shall be known to the
multitudes. And we shall all be known to each other in our wickedness.
It was in the fourth grade at St. Mary’s School
when Sister Perpetua told us what our fate
was to be at The Last Judgment.
We would stand in the largest crowd
we had ever known,
in the healthiest body we had ever worn,
and God the Father
would tell everyone our sins.
I’ve always wondered what would happen
then when everyone who’d ever lived learned
I had stolen matches from the church
and taken home a marble from school
which I did not return?
Not that any facts got in the way
of my fear of that reckoning.
For example, where would everybody stand
and how could anybody hear
over the tumult such a crowd would generate,
even if nobody but God the Father was talking?
And some of us would be two years old
and some would be in our teens,
and how would anybody actually be in a body
older than 40 years of age?
I should add it had always concerned me
that the mental age of each person
was not factored in—thus, some sins
would be more embarrassing
to those who heard about them
than to those who committed them,
and where would the justice be in that?
But since I have been redeemed,
I don’t worry about the Last Judgment any more
than I do about the last payment on my house.
Forgiveness, it turns out, is capacious
when all we had been taught
was that it was capricious.
I was redeemed when I turned
and went back to Sodom,
to the friends and neighbors
I had lived among all my life.
Nothing untoward happened except
I didn’t count myself among the fearful anymore.
I don’t remember if my redemption
took place on a Sunday or not.
Stores were open, the markets
were full of shoppers buying food.
We greeted each other
as we passed in the aisles.
It was as if nothing had ever set us apart
in our lives. We didn’t even fear death
because it was just another experience
we would share at some time,
either near or far in the future,
but certainly beyond our current sense of things.
THE LAST BREAKUP
Maybe if she hadn’t dyed her hair purple
and if she had gone to class
when I dropped her off each day,
then maybe she wouldn’t have
gotten a heroin habit
and completely crashed your car.
If she hadn’t gone to jail and
if you hadn’t had to call your ex-husband
to meet you at the lock-up,
and if I had been the one
in family therapy with you
at the hospital instead of him
those three months of weekly sessions,
then maybe you would have
seen her talk to me
the way she talked in the car
on the way to school,
her hair glossy as a grackle,
back-combed on the top, nape
shaved, a perfectly crafted
punked-out geisha teen.
If you had seen her talk to me
then you would have known
I was her family, and not one
like the one your mother had in mind
when she said “you need a man
to take care of you.”
If you didn’t take that advice so
to heart, then you could have
heard your daughter talk to me
about me moving in with you,
and if she hadn’t painted
her bedroom black and ruined
the apartment so that your lease
was broken and you had to move,
maybe you wouldn’t have said
she had to live with her dad
and his so-called bitch
who smoked dope all day.
If she didn’t find heroin
then maybe she wouldn’t have
felt superior to that stoner step-mom
and had to run away again
because there was no home with you
to go to.
If she had had a home
maybe she wouldn’t have
needed a motorcycle
to make you mad at her some more
and you find my defense of her
tedious, and if I would have been a man
I would have told you to “calm down”
and you would have believed me.
Instead you said you had to
find a man and be normal again
and you wanted me to make that all right,
but by then I was so
bereft, as if my chest
had been unbuttoned in a
blizzard, I couldn’t say
that it was fine for you to leave me,
to believe that admonition of that mother of yours
whose boyfriend was “hit” by the mob.
If you had just let me attend
family counseling and if you and
heard your daughter talk to me,
I think we had a home to make.
ELOISE KLEIN HEALY, Founding Chair of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Antioch University Los Angeles and Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing Emerita, is the author of six books of poetry and two CDs. Her most recent collection, The Islands Project: Poems For Sappho, was published by Red Hen Press. Her collection Passing was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Lesbian Poetry Prize.