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