Passing into that afterlife

Once, a woman I barely knew
confided to me that after a long
illness, she almost died— except

the way she put it was I nearly
went to heaven.
I looked at her
and marveled at the guilelessness

of her confession, the implication
that she’d passed every test, never had
the slightest blemish on her driving

record— nor ever swore, sneaked a cig,
lied to parents, teachers, lovers, friends;
touched herself in the dark, felt

the hot and sour ping of envy
at the girls who were golden
no matter what— how they ate

whatever they liked, never seeming
to gain a pound; kissed whoever
they liked and never lost

their social standing; and also
at the ones who had no qualms
about mouthing off at anyone

who crossed them, whose very
shadow in the hallways cleared
a path through rows of dented

lockers. From childhood catechism,
I still remember the definitions of
the venial and the mortal, those two

varieties of sin and the difference
between what could deprive the soul
of divine grace. And though I have

sometimes been so angry or frustrated
that I’ve come close to thinking I might
like to strangle someone with my bare hands,

of course I’d never do such a thing. But even
for my innumerable small transgressions and selfish
appetites, no matter how generous I was toward myself,

when all things end I don’t think I could feel
so confident of winding up sandaled, clad in an airy
white tunic, in a green garden garlanded with fruit.


In response to Via Negativa: Microcosmic.

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