God is Man
If I were to sum up my childhood in one room, that room would be the sacristy of my village church. A Catholic sacristy is that private enclave to the side of the altar, the quiet room where boys tussle with child sized smocks and grown men, ordained by God Himself, don robes of finest silk and velvet.
This is the room for men. The room where men prepare for God. The room where men initiate boys into that glorious birthright that is theirs and theirs alone by virtue of their maleness, some pipeline to the divine defined by biology.
This room, in my village church, is the room where a neighboring farmer violated me for almost a decade.
In this room, with all its lingering incense from weekly funerals, and all its glistening vestments in greens and reds and purples, rustling, unprovoked, in the long wardrobe, and all the gospels, gold rimmed and hard-backed, propped on their cherry podiums, splayed open to some passage a priest might skim before Mass, to locate Irish words that required my schoolmaster father’s help with meaning and pronunciation, there amid all the paraphernalia of purity made flesh, a local man desecrated my girlhood again and again and again.
This is the room that has lived inside me for almost five decades.
The room that symbolized all that was holy in men.
All that was utterly unholy in me.
Is this a statement too broad to defend?
Is this the way I begin a story?
How do I go from here to anywhere?
From here to any other room that might contain a different message?
It seems simple enough.
Leave the room.
Leave that sacristy. All its history.
But therein is the journey of a thousand thresholds.
A thousand times I crossed the metal lip of that arched alcove, day after season after year of my girlhood.
Imagine each departure from sacristy back onto the altar as a fresh layer of sediment on a girl’s shocked and bruised body.
Imagine each click closed of the door behind me as the pay slip of memory dropped into its own compartment.
Imagine the angry twist of key in cradle, as that farmer’s declaration of my eviction.
Imagine the clink of metal with loose shillings as that farmer pockets his authority.
Imagine that key as the deed to what he has left inside me.
Listen for the protest of hinges that attest that farmer’s departure through the priest’s back door as absolution for him who has done no wrong.
Approach a girl on bended knee before the tabernacle.
Ask her who is holy? And who is not?
Ask her: Is God yours? Or is God his?
Don’t be surprised when she turns to you, weary at your ignorance, and says: God is him God is man.
Éanlaí’s writing has appeared in Bryant Literary Review, Agave Magazine, Delmarva Review, White Wall Review, Sweet Tree Review, String Poet, Peregrine, Sinister Wisdom, Big Muddy, The Ignatian Literary Magazine, The Courage to Heal, Entropy Magazine, and The Magic of Memoir. She has spent the last twenty years attending writing workshops across America. She was a Lit Camp Writers Conference scholarship recipient; a Pat Schneider Poetry Contest Honorable Mention winner; long listed in the National Poetry Competition United Kingdom in 2017; a Winner of the Eastern Iowa Review’s Lyric Essay Contest in 2018; a Top Ten Finalist in the Fish Short Memoir Prize contest in 2018; and received a literary residency at WordSpaceStudios in San Francisco last year. An elementary school teacher for ten years, she currently leads writing workshops online and in San Francisco. She enjoys photography, searching for the elusive “perfect chair,” and public speaking. More information at eanlaicronin.com
Art: Green Nocturne by Chris Long. Abandoning his focus from the prior decade as a sculptor and mold maker, Long began teaching himself to paint in New Orleans in early 2011. He initially focused on still life and portraiture, and then switched entirely to painting oil landscapes en plein air and from his travel photo references. He now lives part-time in New England and travels coast-to-coast in a motor coach with his family the remainder of the year. Long paints 2-4 originals a day. He posts each of his paintings to his instagram everyday. View more of his paintings here.