Mendy Knott


“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” from the 23rd Psalm

In the dimness of churchlight at night
she sits and sniffs at dusty hymnals.
Too young yet for pimples,
she picks a scab on her right knee until it bleeds.
“Only His blood can wash you clean.”
Six days of spiritual scrubbing and still her soul
lies limp in her belly
wrinkled and dirty as a soiled pair of panties
at the bottom of the laundry basket.
“Repent, and be saved from eternal damnation.”
Her sins hover over her,
drawn like dark moths to the light of her brief life.
Afflicted fairies, they flutter and dance behind closed lids,
Neck bent in prayer,
she dares not lift her head for fear
of Daddy’s glare from the pulpit
so she studies the bloody open sore,
pretends hard it’s a bullet hole
and she’s a wounded cowboy
and not the only unsaved soul
amongst a bevy of believers.
Head down, she avoids the frown 
she knows is tugging at the corners
of her mother’s mouth where she sits beside her.
“Imagine, my friends, what hell is like.”
She can, but doesn’t want to.
And while words of fire flame from the face
that, like a whiskery trace, graces her room at bedtime
and the same sweet lips that kiss her cheek to sleep
grimace with damnation as the congregation groans,
she taps the toes of her Mary Janes
and wishes that she was home
or playing on the grassy knoll behind the church
at kick-the-can or hide-and-seek
or catching fireflies to be released,
the crushed ones glowing on her fingertips — 
to her, a good example of what can happen 
when you let your little light shine bright.
She swallows all her dad’s descriptions
like her mother’s bitter health prescriptions,
expecting dreams of screaming folks,
who, once boasting disbelief,
stand roasting in red-yellow heat,
no green to cool their burning feet;
a fate she knows awaits her.

Awake late, the sheets bind her in a starchy knot,
the sweat of future fires makes her hot,
and she tries not to sleep, but does and dreams:
She’s in her own backyard. It’s spring.
Mimosas bloom a frilly pink
and honeysuckle hangs, its summery perfume
fills up all the room inside her as she gazes
at the mitt on her left hand,
a softball glowing whitely in the trap.
She has on jeans and hightops,
a t-shirt that says Jesus Shops at K-Mart
and SAVES. She’s not sure exactly what
it means, but accepts it (like we do in dreams)
and looking up sees the Son of God
himself looking hopefully at her.
He wears the flowing robes 
and curling hair she’s seen in pictures everywhere
but his eyes seem neither sad nor mad.
In fact, he’s smiling and she assumes he’s glad
he’s wearing a softball glove on his hand, too.
She’s not quite sure what she should do,
but he punches his mitt like a pro,
calls out, “C’mon and throw.”
She grips the ball and pitches
and hopes like hell that he won’t miss it.
He snags it easily, throws back
a perfect toss she catches a little to one side.
That’s when she discovers something has rubbed off
on the gleaming bleached cowhide
because the ball that’s nestled in her glove
is full of love.
How else to explain it —
that warms her mitt and fills her hand
reaches up the length of arm to bleed into her chest
until her entire body shines with its powerful radiance.
Overcome, she feels too young to understand this kind of love
but knows she can appreciate what is good and kind and whole.
In that twilit world the two play catch
and every time she throws it “smack”
into his mitt she hopes he feels her love him back.
They don’t talk. The ball expresses all they have to say
and they play until the day discovers her in bed,
when just before his last pitch finds her glove
the ball becomes a dove and flies away.