In the Confessional at school’s end
the priest’s face has the sheen 
of the girl’s Mary Quant 
nude lipstick. She 

fidgets on the hassock. 
Incense thralls her, 
a fantasy of hands 
milking themselves 

behind the grille. Words hiss. 
Tell me, my child, 
tongue-click at cracked lips, 
flicker in the priest’s groin: 
exactly what did yous do with him? 

Three times the question,
three times her reply -
a Judas crow -
I slept with him.

She rushes through the penance, 
twenty-five Hail Mary, seethes 
down the nave, parts 
a sea of sleepy motes, 
scent of lilies, 
unctuous echoes. 

Candles in the Mary chapel 
gutter, flare; Our Lady 
tails her from under 
lidded eyes. Mute. Cold stone.

The church door groans, 
clangs shut as she steps 
out into the yard, 
out of her vaunt of piety, 
out of Mother Church. 

A crow on a grave stone 
ruffles it’s wings, cackles 
applause. Breeze 
tousles her hair; 
baptism of apple 
blossom, absolution. 

About the Author

Pratibha’s prize-winning pamphlet, A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers, comes out in April 2021 with Hedgehog Press. Her work has been published in print and online with The Blue Nib, Indigo Dreams publications Sarasvati and Reach, Fly on the Wall Press, Impspired, and more. It weaves around experiences of childhood as an Irish emigre in 1950s England. Starting late, she graduated from the University of Chichester with a first-class honours degree in Creative Writing at the age of 61.


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