A Churchwoman. by Juanita Rey

For many years,
on Monday mornings,
my mother has cleaned the church,
down on her knees
with brush and bucket,
doesn’t quit until
the floor is spotless
and every pew shines
with what she refers to as
“the light of God.”

It is one of many jobs,
that she has worked
to pay for the chores
she does at home for free.

But it is the one
she would have done for nothing
had the priest so asked.
It helps her assuage the culpa
for the little she drops
into the plate on Sundays.

On the phone,
she complains to me
how a herniated disk
now stands between her and her duty.
Even worse, this past Monday morning,
some other woman
trotted up the church stairs
with arms full of scrubbing implements.
My mother insists this stand-in
is taking her place in heaven.

That’s typical of our conversations.
They never stray far from her religion.
Usually, the subject matter
is the mistakes I’ve made in my life.
Her reprimands rain fiery coals.
I’ve been singed more than I like to remember.

Thankfully, today she’s pleased to say
her back is healing.
We’ll both be off the hook for now.

My face in the bed
staring up at a dog,
his lick of my cheek for effect,
an eye for the leash on the floor
and the neighborhood walk
it promises -
he offers a break from my life –
a renewal of his.

Juanita Rey is a Dominican poet who has been in this country five years. Her work has been published in Pennsylvania English, Opiate Journal, Petrichor Machine and Porter Gulch Review.