The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer Perrine’s “No Confession, No Mass”

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Invocation: [Saint] Genevieve

In worship, the people remember you
                                                  as a protector, invoke you to guard
against natural disasters: drought, flood,
                                                  sweat of fever. To recall your power
to heal they must bring to mind your abuse:
                                                  how your mother struck you—her heavy palm
sharp against your face—and as punishment
                                                  lost her sight until, months later, you fetched
water from a well, washed her eyes, lifted
                                                  the well from her world. How did your mother
look in that moment, engaged in her own
                                                  mystic vision, returned from her journey
in the dark? What did her gaze light on first:
                                                  the fragile fabric you daubed at her lids,
the small coin you wore tethered at your neck,
                                                  your long fingers reaching toward the girl
you would become, who ate only barley
                                                  bread and beans, slowly paring your body
into that relic, enshrined, borne aloft
                                                  through the streets of Paris, sucking poison
from believers, drawing out the ergot,
                                                  the gangrene from their hands and feet? What prayer
was poised on her lips in that instant, spell
                                                  to keep you safe, to stop the villagers
from begging at your bones? Did she wish you
                                                  desire, a spouse, arms spangled with trinkets,
enough excess to extinguish the fire
                                                  a bishop lit in your seven-year-old
self? Is she the one who sits forever
                                                  beside you in the icons, in disguise
as the devil, her breath a stinging rush
                                                  of wind at your cheek, her bellows huffing,
fervent, trying to blow your candle out?


This selection comes from Jennifer Perrine’s collection No Confession, No Mass, available from University of Nebraska Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jennifer Perrine is an associate professor of English and directs the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Drake University. Perrine is the author of In the Human Zoo, recipient of the Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize, and The Body Is No Machine, winner of the Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award in Poetry.

Leslie LaChance edits Mixitini Matrix: A Journal of Creative Collaboration, has curated The Wardrobe for Sundress Publications and written poetry reviews for Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, and her chapbook, How She Got That Way, was published in the quartet volume Mend & Hone by Toadlily Press in 2013. She teaches literature and writing at Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee, and if she is not teaching, writing, or editing, she has probably just gone to make some more espresso.

 

 

 

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