For my First Communion I received
a bible, its cover embossed with a gold
J in scripted ink; a rosary, pink
glass ready for my contrition;
and a scapular, an ugly word
for an ugly thing, brown cloth
patches connected by what looked
like a shoelace. I dangled it
over my palm. I examined its ends:
a Mary, maybe, and a man.
I didn’t understand. I tucked it into
the satin purse from which it had come
and left it there. The rosary, though,
I looped on my bedpost
and covered in prayers, my small
fingers working the promise
of the beads.
It belongs on the shoulders,
a gentle yoke hidden beneath
the clothes, along the clavicle.
Catholics consider it
a Sacramental, something that
prepares a person for grace,
mostly from Mary. The internet
says that when Mary appeared
to St. Simon in a dream,
she draped a scapular
from her porcelain hand. She made
a promise: He who dies in this
will not suffer eternal fire.
I had always
had a thing for Mary. I just
related -- if anyone could understand
a kid knowing nothing, it was her -- so
in high school I took it and put it
in my car console, just in case, and there
my scapular witnessed my sins. I confess
that over its habitation I kissed
a girl, gave blowjobs, cried, smoked
cigarettes, drank too much, loved
a girl and two boys and maybe another.
I carried these shames in my bones.
It’s called the acromion
and for as long as I can remember
I have wanted to put that curve
of bone atop a woman’s
scapula in my mouth. That
round end of a shoulder begs
for a sign of devotion --
to skin pink and smooth as glass,
to skin brown and freckled by sun --
neither one the host but still
a magical charm
under my tongue.