He wasn’t what you’d want to look at -
orange hair sprayed in a thick beard
over his brown robes and in between the toes
of his Franciscan leather sandals -
but he told us boarders
that we were misunderstood angels
and that the nuns didn’t understand him either.
Of course we should be allowed to drink altar wine
and confess openly away from restraints
in the school library.
I thought he was the liberated uncle I never had.
So when he asked me to sit on his lap
I was genuinely sorry that I couldn’t oblige.
I’m too heavy I confessed.
You’re grand he said softly
No matter how often he repeated it.
You’re grand, you’re grand, you’re grand
in the name of God
aren’t I telling you you’re grand?
He was nearly shouting in the end,
but I stayed on my knees.
Bless me father for I have sinned
It was eleven years before I remembered -
and it struck me
as I walked down Charing Cross Road,
that once, for ten minutes in 1977
God just might have been watching over me.
From The Rialto No 65 (Summer 2008)