There came a time about three years after we moved to Vermont when I decided I wanted to go to church again. Really what I wanted was to go to church at Christmas. Really what I wanted was to go to church for the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas. Really what I wanted was to see how church changed for Advent. Really what I wanted was to hear familiar hymns. To make the sign of the cross and feel holy water on my face. Really what I wanted was for church to be a portal to being a small child, a little girl again, sitting in a wooden pew at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Devine Street in Columbia, South Carolina, with my mother’s arm around me. Where I went to CCD. Where the priest once blessed our corgi. Really what I wanted was to say the words to prayers and have my mouth move in the same way my grandmothers’ mouths moved. Really what I wanted was to feel the order of things and to know what to expect. Really what I wanted was to sing out loud among other people instead of alone in my car. To unearth emotion from this stuck place inside of me. Really what I wanted was to examine all the people in the pews in front of me, their hair, their coats and sweaters, their dark lipstick and lip liner when they turned their head to the side, their features when they looked up to the choir in the loft. Really what I wanted was to have a stranger say, Peace be with you, and for me to say it back. Really what I wanted was to marvel at the color that shined upon the carpet from the warmed-up stained glass windows. Really what I wanted was to talk to the dead, and I figured I could find them here. Really what I wanted was to feel an organ fill a sanctuary. To hear the glee in its sustained chords when we sang out the last verse of the final hymn and Mass came to an end. Really what I wanted was to be in this church and in every church I’d ever been in, to be everywhere, all at once.
Erin Pesut is a poet, essayist, and editor living in Brattleboro, Vermont. Her writing has appeared in Chautauqua, West Trestle Review, HeartWood, and Poetry South, and is forthcoming from Whale Road Review and Raft Magazine. Her essay “Groceries (The Longest Text I Receive All Week)” was a finalist in the inaugural CRAFT Creative Nonfiction Award. She received her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, where she was a School of the Arts Fiction Fellow, and a BA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College.
Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #41.