Fathom Mag

The Atheist at Communion

A Sijo Sequence

Published on:
September 12, 2022
Read time:
1 min.
Share this article:

It’s a compulsion. Even though she stopped believing as a child,
she’s still there like clockwork in that very last pew each Sabbath,
always giving generously, despite never shaking hands.

She holds her hymnal silently, stiffly, steadfastly refusing
to sing along, her muttered amens unheard under her breath
as, with a shake of her head, she declines Communion again. 

She is both the last to enter and the first to leave every week.
Alternately the subject of gossip and easily missed,
she is, nonetheless, the most consistent of parishioners.  

She tries to stop, to avoid that old, familiar skirt and blouse,
but Sunday comes and she can’t help herself, can’t stop that great urge
traipsing up her spine and through her marrow, scratching a whisper,

similar to nails on a chalkboard—deeply excruciating—
not unlike the guilt she feels when she arrives, Bible in hand,
knowing if there were a Hell for atheists, this would be it.  


Previously published in The Global Poetry Consortium's Mentor Anthology for Students (May 2022).

Rose Menyon Heflin
Rose Menyon Heflin is a writer and artist living in Madison, Wisconsin, although she is originally from rural, southern Kentucky. Her poetry won a Merit Award from Arts for All Wisconsin in both 2021 and 2022, and one of her poems was choreographed and performed by a local dance troupe. Additionally, she had a creative nonfiction piece featured in the Chazen Museum of Art’s Companion Species exhibit. Among other venues, her poetry has recently been published or is forthcoming in Deep South Magazine, Fireflies’ Light, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, Isotrope, Moss Piglet Zine, Of Rust and Glass, Pamplemousse, Poemeleon, Red Weather Literary Magazine, San Antonio Review,and Xinachtli Journal (Journal X).

Cover image by Thays Orrico.

Next story