“Good Catholics” by James Valvis


Dirty hair, angry, full of bile
for everyone, greedy, illiterate,
Aunt Pat was the first person
any of us knew to have an abortion.
This was in 1977, when I was eight,
six months after my father
pissed blood in the toilet for days
after his vasectomy.
On my knees, in St. Paul’s church,
I prayed for babies,
Aunt Pat’s and all my lost siblings,
and then lost my virginity at 16
to the first girl who’d have me.
I remember a picture of my Uncle Richie
holding a rosary at his First Communion,
skin clean, teeth white, hair parted,
so different than the tattooed alcoholic
who threw up on our Christmas tree
and beat his kids bloody.
We were all such good Catholics
before it asked anything of us.


James Valvis has placed poems or stories in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Ploughshares, River Styx, The Sun, Tar River Poetry, and many others. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.


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