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X. J. Kennedy

Photo courtesy of the author

Close Call

How suddenly she roused my ardor,
That woman with wide-open car door
Who, with a certain languid Sapphic
Grace into brisk rush-hour traffic
Stepped casually. I tromped the brake,
Her lips shaped softly, “My mistake.”
Then for a moment as I glided
By, our glances coincided
And I drove off, whole rib cage filled
With joy at having not quite killed.

First Confession

Blood thudded in my ears—I scuffed,
steps stubborn, to the telltale booth
beyond whose curtained portal coughed
the robed repositor of truth.

The slat shot back. The universe
bent down his cratered dome to hear
enumerated my each curse,
the sip snitched from my old man’s beer,

my sloth pride envy lechery,
the dime held back from Peter’s Pence
with which I’d bribed my girl to pee
that I might spy her instruments—

his scale-pans hovering when I’d done
settled their balance slow as silt
while in the restless dark I burned
bright as a brimstone in my guilt

until as one feeds birds he doled
seven Our Fathers and a Hail
which I to double-scrub my soul
intoned twice at the altar rail

where Sunday in seraphic light
I knelt, as full of grace as most,
and stuck my tongue out at the priest:
a fresh roost for the Holy Ghost.