Leaving St. Bernard Behind

Leaving St. Bernard Behind

By the time religion got to me
all the joy had been filtered out
too many censorious priests,
too many soporific sermons
too many cavernous churches
with names like St. Michael’s, St. Theresa’s, St Ann’s,
too many saints.
Why, even my white Y front underwear
had a saint’s name on the tag, St. Bernard.
His name was also on my vests, my shirts, my pajamas;
I just couldn’t get St. Bernard off my back.
Where I found my true congregation
was on Sunday afternoons
with my dad, my uncle, my brother, my older sister
on the terraces at Milltown
watching Shamrock Rovers play.
There were binaries there too
heaven was a victory
and while defeat wasn’t exactly hell
it cast a pall over Sunday tea,
a pall that was quickly relieved by the sugar high
from the flotilla of cakes my mother
had been baking since Saturday afternoon.
Now St. Bernard has been replaced
by someone called Denver Hayes.
I doubt if Denver is a saint
and I’m fine with that
underwear should be secular
joy, unconfined.

The prompt from Brendan over at earthweal is to write a Michealmas Festival poem. This poem really doesn’t do the prompt justice, but it’s the poem that the prompt prompted.

Also taking part in Open Link Night over at dverse

24 thoughts on “Leaving St. Bernard Behind

  1. Ingrid

    I love this vision of the secular church of football and the Saturday-into-Sunday routine of it all. The ‘flotilla of cakes’ – I once baked one of these for my son’s birthday: once and once only so kudos to your mum for doing it every week! I love the closing lines:
    ‘I like my underwear to be secular
    my joy to be unconfined.’
    Brought to mind Blake’s ‘The Garden of Love.’

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  2. kim881

    The title made me giggle and then I screamed with laughter at the lines:
    ‘Why, even my white Y front underwear
    had a saint’s name on the tag, St. Bernard.
    His name was also on my vests, my shirts, my pyjamas;
    I just couldn’t get St. Bernard off my back.’
    I too have worn the sacred vestments of St Bernard!
    Football is just another religion, one my husband embraces, together with heavy metal and chocolate. I have no idea what Denver Hayes is. I personally still worship at the altar of Joni, my underwear secular and my joy unconfined..

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  3. Mish

    That was an amusing analogy! I agree…too many saints and other pretentious designations. I’ve always wondered why something that was supposed to be joyful was always so somber and restrained.

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  4. Steve Simpson

    I appreciate the underlying childhood guilt you’ve brought out in this enjoyable piece, Jim. We knew we were doing bad things (my mother left me no doubt by telling me that storms were a result of my bad behaviour), but there were times when we could put it aside.

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