Three of us pretend to be priests
during the long break after gym.
In the changing room girls jostle in lines,
flushed from basketball or dodgeball.
They shriek and compete
for who has the most sins.
The chairs become confessionals,
and we kneel before the backrests.
Boys drop in from the locker room next door,
followed by kids from other grades.
The whole school erupts
in a frenzy of false confessions instead
of confessing falsehoods to that stranger
behind the screen in a dark booth.
Our penance: chewing bitter
a few or a fistful depending
on the seriousness of the sin,
the liveliness of the yarns, pieced together
from adults’ conversations, laughter, the onslaught
of images during drowsy lessons, the fears
when you wake at night and gaze
between buildings up at heaven.
How many such days: sprinting on the playground,
tossing a medicine ball in gym, and just beyond the wall
this contest of stories, improvised
or artistically arranged in advance.
Till they caught us. It ended with a reprimand
from the principal and the priest thundering,
“You’ll have to confess that confession!”
This poem was originally published in “The Southern Review”
Translated by Karen Kovacik