I am thoroughly guilty in a long life.
A lapsed Catholic boy, I fucked up early on.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, I whispered
to the priest on the mesh’s other side.
It’s been seven days since my last confession, and
I’ve committed the following sins.
Guilty of believing I could accept Catholic
ideas of sin. Guilty I kowtowed to my mother’s demand.
I believe in her God. Guilty of rolling my eyes
at the catechism teacher whose class I attended
before I ate supper. You hate it here, don’t you?
Guilty of loving your green eyes in sixth-grader Belinda Berry,
my first crush, Guilty of memorizing her until now,
Guilty of knowing I’d meet and discover you and what you
owned: Belinda Berry’s green eyes, you waiting, not seeing
I was that punk who loved your eyes in Belinda Berry’s face.
Of jacking-off in a five-foot-high alfalfa field
in the middle of Memphis after I delivered
The Press Scimitar in the afternoon. That first
time, my jism kissed those flowers, felt better
than angels’ wings out of reach in church.
My parents found me guilty of scrabbling
the word rape to my sister a few months later.
There’s no such thing. said Darlene. Is too, I said.
Go ask Uncle Roy if you don’t believe me.
She did. Belt-lashed, denied my Friday whiting.
Guilty of busting my father’s small jaw and pale red lips
after one too many beatings bent over the bathtub.
He shamed me, saying, You proud of yourself? Guilty of not respecting him, not slugging him sooner. Proud of never bashing him or anyone again. Guilty.
I liked music, spent dishwasher money on records.
Hunted dope: no pot, no hash, so dramamine. Guilty.
Stole Farmer’s Market watermelons, stoned, spit out
seeds from my dorm window, guilty of spawning babies
in the grass the following Fall. Guilty of yelling, Hot damn!
And I love guilty pleasures: chocolate-covered cashews
and champagne, a Neruda book of love poems before hogs
ate it. Stealing the English version of Electric Ladyland.
Jimi loved those bare-breasted women. I know- Guilty.
Guilty of buying sixty chess sets while my wife fought cancer.
I love guilty: eating two pounds of shrimp with a smack
addict. Better than junk, he said. Hey, I’ll score you some.
Fuck you, I said. Not guilty of that kind of self-crumbling.
Guilty I judged him for nods in the dank lonely booth
where I revealed my first sins against the absent God.
Of revisiting my father in every man, guilty of inventing
transgressions. Guilty of one male friend for 40 years.
Guilty of ego’s narcissism. Of living in a popped bubble
of self-love. Guilty of loving myself with hatred,
not asking the difference between bright dusk and dark dawn.
Of burning bridges because I flamed hotter than most maniacs,
not noticing myself in their eyes, Guilty of not editing
outrages at betrayals from too many muses’ charms,
Guilty of mistaking their smiles for sincere quarter moons,
giving them my soul, shameless, declaring, You’re beautiful.
Guilty of loving myself too much, lingering in the mirror
too long. Of sitting in a café griping about the price
of Guilt. Of thinking I should confess mankind’s
sins against the planet, for not throwing plastics
in the recyclable, for watching The Murder Channel.
Guilty of laughing at the seventh grade nun after she asked me
about guilt. I leered, said, Guilt is looking at your ugly face
every day. Guilty of watching her sneer as she whacked my palms,
saying, Guilty of disrespect, guilty of pride, guilty of leering
at Belinda Berry! I know you, you are sly. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!
Guilty of finding you, tall, happy-eyed lady of the Highlands,
Guilty of not feeling guilty about it, guilty I remembered
your eyes in the face of that schoolgirl, deserving you
during decades of cursing the church, the priest
revealing his blackness before the last peep of light.
Guilty, the one-voiced jury declares, Guilty of being human.
Guilty is a rusty ball and chain of a masochist’s reflections.
You choose to feel guilty, a psychopath told me. Hey!
Throw your guilt into the gutter along with your last gun.
Tell yourself with one final statement of self-forgiveness:
I’m guilty of nothing but loving you.
David Spicer is a former medical journal proofreader now living in Memphis. He has published poems in Santa Clara Review, Synaeresis, Chiron Review, Remington Review, unbroken, Third Wednesday, Yellow Mama, CircleStreet, The Bookends Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Gargoyle, The Midnight Boutique, and elsewhere. Nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart once, he is author of one full-length poetry collection, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press) and six chapbooks, the latest of which is Tribe of Two (Seven CirclePress). Waiting for the Needle Rain, a full-length collection, is forthcoming from Hekate Publishing.