For my friend, Ruth, who urges me to make an appointment for the Sacrament of Confession

Concerning your letter in which you ask  
me to call a priest and in which you ask  
me to wear The Cross that you enclose;  
your own cross,
your dog—bitten cross,
no larger than a thumb,
small and wooden, no thorns, this rose—
I pray to its shadow,
that gray place
where it lies on your letter ... deep, deep.
I detest my sins and I try to believe
in The Cross. I touch its tender hips, its dark jawed face,  
its solid neck, its brown sleep.
True. There is
a beautiful Jesus.
He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!  
But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.
All morning long  
I have worn
your cross, hung with package string around my throat.  
It tapped me lightly as a child’s heart might,
tapping secondhand, softly waiting to be born.  
Ruth, I cherish the letter you wrote.
My friend, my friend, I was born  
doing reference work in sin, and born  
confessing it. This is what poems are:  
with mercy
for the greedy,
they are the tongue’s wrangle,
the world’s pottage, the rat’s star.

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