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).
Cover image by Thays Orrico.