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Heaven’s Gate

ISSUE:  Summer 2001

Only Gabriella Wells or Irene
in their white dresses and
 tight curls,
maybe Al Bouchard in his pressed
pants and starched white shirt
might get through Heaven’s Gate
that Sister Maria had drawn on the board,
the gold bars in yellow chalk,
the silver key in white chalk,
and Michael, the huge archangel
with three heads, six faces,
twelve wings and a sword,
would not let anyone in
who had the slightest sin
 on his soul,

those of us placed in the last
sure we were going to Hell,
Donald, who’d been held back two years,
Richie, who smoked and cursed,
Jon DuMas who could hardly speak
and so drew the whole day long,
crosses filling the white page,
with devils rising from each one,
horns, pitchforks, penises
that dragged along the ground,

me there, too, for the thirteen U’s
of unsatisfactory moral behavior,
 a perfect score,
my father joked when I brought
 the report card home,
the long-ball, he whispered,
so the woman at the stove would not hear,

bending so close I could smell the Schaefers,
 see the quick signature
before he tucked it into my religion book
 whose cover I still remember,
a snow-capped mountain where tiny figures
 were climbing
into a vast, blue cold I could only imagine then,
each with a red hat and a red scarf on,
all of them staring up, not one looking back,
as they trudged, step by slow step, toward God.


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