9.12 / December 2014

Five Poems

In Persona Christi

The priest is, indeed, another Christ….
Encyclical on the Priesthood, Pope Pius XI

Even as he touched me,
I knew
he was the word
made flesh.

We swam, and
I floated naked
beside him,

my little nubbin
from the water.

Weenie on a plate,
he joked.

In bed, he said,

Take and eat.
This is my body,
given for you.

When he came,
he was salty.
Like sea
in my mouth.

The taste he left
was the taste of drowning.

—Based on accounts of abuse at the hands of Father James Janssen, from
the book Sacrilege by Leon J. Podles.

My Body Broken for You

After Mass, I bid him kneel before me
in the sacristy as I have knelt
so many times before the sculpted body
of our Lord. He is in his Sunday best,
shoes his mother shined. Wine we shared
left a rose on each cheek.
He closes his eyes in prayer,
his face as open as a question.
I place my blessing hand on his head
and pull aside my vestments.
O, I am as firm as my convictions,
hard as the unbeliever’s heart.
I turn to flesh in the furnace of his mouth.
His neck is like porcelain as I bend
over him, my body blooming
from his throat’s small vase.
I am burning, burning.
I want to bathe him in this cleansing,
hot stream, baptize myself
in the pure flowing drops
of his tears. Look at us.
Look at us before You, Lord.
We are bursting. We are flames.
We are flowers. We are Your holy,
Your broken, faithful children.


Sometimes, Father Francis took me
                                         to the movies.
                                                       Sometimes, to the morgue.

The bodies were laid out in rows,
                                         like on baking sheets.
                                                       Their mouths stayed open

the way my mouth stayed open the first time
                                         he touched me.
                                                       Some were stiff, the way I stiffened.

Twisted, the way I twisted. His warm lips,
                                         his tongue.
                                                       His finger in my little sphincter

as irresistible as death when it comes for you.
                                         I came for him.
                                                       My tiny seed in his mouth.

Then he asked my confession, and we drove
                                         across town to see the dead
                                                       staring—fixed and forever—at me.

—Based on accounts of abuse at the hands of Father Francis Bass, who took groups of his molestation victims to visit the Cook County Hospital morgue, from the book Sacrilege by Leon J. Podles


A single trickle
from where he nailed me
to the sacristy wall,
pushing hard
to get all the way in.

He said he would
teach me mercy.
For three months now,
my wound weeps
in the dark.

—Based on accounts of abuse at the hands of Father Arthur F. O’Sullivan, from the book Sacrilege by Leon J. Podles


Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.
Proverbs 23:13-14

It is with devotion
that I beat my rod over you,
beat it almost into submission
before prodding the sweet spot
where you soil yourself.
It’s a bumpy ride, child,
but I thrash the demons
out of you. I deliver you,
frothing and panting, from Hell.

Francesca Bell’s poems appear or are forthcoming in many journals including Prairie Schooner, New Ohio Review, Flycatcher, Zone 3, River Styx, and burntdistrict. She has been nominated six times for the Pushcart Prize and won the 2014 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle.
9.12 / December 2014