the star girl
the other church drove itself in night cars
across country roads to farmhouses, provincial parks.
in these places trees breathed as they did
on ottawa street, but hungrier, with deeper lungs.
through the black of the car window, i would push up
through heavy eyelids to the far-away
and there I would see, the star girl, somewhere
past orion, veiled in the milky way, she took
star after star into her palm, swallowed it
to clean herself out. watching her, i could
penetrate the distance, kill the seconds between now
and her but as the car turned the family down
a blacker road, trees tore her away; i dropped back
into my groin like a stone.
this road led to the white robes.
they were hooded, carried people with the
human gone out, we all wore them, heavy white,
only skin underneath. The robes believed in god
and jesus and they believed in blood sacrifice.
jesus had always been about blood,
not sunday morning grape juice; in this church
your body was your cross. now make your body
into a cross, father said as he taught me about god
and my bed. now spread your legs. say,
jesus, i love you. Jesus forgive me.
now daddy is going to give you his sins.
this is how you die for daddy’s sins. i died,
how many times i died. our shoes piled up
in a farmhouse front hall, we all changed into
naked under white, gathered in rooms where shadows
slipped in and around us, shadows that could touch
and be touched. here infants were baptized in blood,
penetrated with a tiny crucifix base; the base widened
with the years. At three or four, i stood
in full naked squirm before a congregation silent
except for their eyes, while the minister said,
this is the way you can be god’s girl,
a good god’s girl: sent to another man’s lap,
spread-apart legs, crucifix sliding in and out.
sometimes long curved knives cut vertical
across a lower throat, then horizontal, chin to groin;
god imprinted on the edge of every extreme,
my fingertips slashed and bleeding with the jesus sign,
the scars there still. There were altars,
child after child laid out and when we grew breasts,
produced our own blood, there were the crosses,
erected high in that flickering candledark.
arms tied along the horizontal bar, i was salvation,
the bride of christ in white veil and wedding dress,
blood a black-red stain thrown across the front
and then the knife cut away the white and I became
the whore robe of abylon, slave of the flesh, abomination
that must be nailed to the tree. this whore must die,
a white robe intoned. she must carry your sin
to the grave. Which man among you has sin to nail
to the cross? Which man among you is without sin?
no man was ever without sin, since the beginning
god had seen to that, each man mounted
and saved himself as the congregation praised god
for my sacrifice: blest be tied that binds
the old rugged cross.
in this church i learned god wanted
to see the world coming down my throat,
shoved between my legs: he would use animal,
vegetable or mineral to do it; he would do it to me
because I was. He had created me virgin
to be raped anywhere, anyhow, anytime; for anyman
i became the doorway unto himself.
it is always the body that is the door to the spirit,
spirit the self forced out of the body, pain
the way to do it, pain coming to the body
everywhere just like the possibilities of love and
everywhere is everypore, everynerve end laid bare.
absolute submission corrupts absolutely.
there was a way to create spirits god knew nothing about.
he created my body, i created my salvation;
each time god broke me open, the body lived
and someone died. i sent each demon out
into what i thought freedom, what was unutterable
lonliness. they blew through night trees writhed
in the earth i walked across, they were the shadows
that twisted, darted about church candle flames.
one rose as far into the night as hope can travel
to where stars hung like a ripe apples within reach.
it was not quite far enough. as sin gang-raped
the body below, the star girl swallowed infinity,
sky and stars traveled in a straight line
down throat to groin, spread vertical across chest.
as dawn rose in the beaks of early birds,
she hung, that last groan in the dark,
Printed with permission of the author from
Scars of Light: NeWest Press, Edmonton, reissued 1998, ISBM 0-920897-73-8