I’m still spitting up blood from the last
time—my throat swells, and it’s hard for
prayers to slip through my teeth. Clasp
hands together, kneel, but can’t
stop my head from rolling
under the church pew.
The priest is standing beside white
fire, preaching about salvation.
I can only see shoes from here,
but they’re worn through the soul.
He is a good man, reaching
under the pew and picking up my
head. He cradles it between his
Holy hands. I am not absolved,
not yet. Maybe someday I
can forgive myself. He takes out
the silver needle, thin red
thread, and stitches my head
back on my sobbing shoulders.
Pray for us Sinners, Father,
my mouth moves on its own. He
smiles and pressed his thumbs
to my eyes, a coal to my lips.
I pray for us all, he whispers,
walking back towards the fire.
His arms are wide and burning
when I swallow the coal.
Tia Cowger is a graduate of Eastern Illinois University. A poet at heart, her work has been published in Eastern’s literary journal The Vehicle, Toe Good, Gone Lawn and others.