With purple stole, face oblique,

I hunch in my confessional.

 

You, penitent, kneel on a shriving stool,

maunder through that latticed aperture.

 

Forgiveness complete, conscience clear,

your fingers skate over hand-worn beads,

while I absorb your sins which torment me.

 

Am I that martyr, flayed like Nathanael[1], who

wrapped his flesh over an extended arm;

 

whose muscles, stretched around ribs, paid testament

in exquisite pain to his faith and inner belief?

 

Your repentant secrets, which I can never reveal,

fester in darkness around my heart.

 

 

[1] Reference to Damien Hirst’s sculpture of St Bartholomew, aka Nathanael, ‘Exquisite Pain’.