I WAS FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM THE HOLY LAND

by Alex McDonald

i spent 12 years in Catholic school
and i never felt closer to Jesus
than when i was smoking a cigarette
in front of a smashed Last Supper mosaic
in an abandoned Christian amusement park 
in waterbury, connecticut

which is to say
that i have never felt close to Jesus
but i did go towards the light that night
or at least
i walked towards the flashlights of 
the three different police officers 
and tried not to panic

it felt the same as final year of Catholic school
listening to my Old Testament teacher
say that trans people did not exist
because God doesn’t make mistakes
it felt the same as fourth grade
seeing the word ‘gay’ for the first time 
as a footnote in the religion textbook chapter on sin
it felt the same as mandatory Mass
with sermons
on the sanctity of marriage and 
the evils of hedonism and
the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah

which is to say
religion has never caused me anything but panic
so i am trying to leave the Church behind
but i still hiked up this hill to the giant glowing cross
to see a caving in statue of the Virgin Mary 
and a wrecked model of a miniature Jerusalem 
to try and absolve at least some sins in these ruins

the police asked what we were doing here
in the dark,
three days after Christmas, 
in a shit part of waterbury
my friend said ‘just taking a walk’
i bit my tongue as I held back a
‘just trying to be saved again’
because First Reconciliation guilt 
still sits heavy in my chest 
holy water still floods my lungs
threatening to wash them clean
Church dogma still plays over in my mind
reminding me that the afterlife is 
just not meant for me

they took us out of Holy Land
told us we didn’t belong there
it was not the first time I’d heard it

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