Mephistopheles Takes His Daughter to Sunday School

by Carol Berg

They’re late again.

His form-fitting purple suit bristles
as if suppressing seven wings
stuffed inside tight sleeves.

He chooses his daughter’s chair
with care, placing her directly
across from me as I cross my bare legs.

I don’t know why he’s here week after week.

Parents and children pretend to take
a walk in the woods under the listening
paper angels hanging from the ceiling.

He walks so close behind me his breath
is a hot mote I flick off my dress and despair
as the spark slowly disappears.

The teacher tells the story of Mary in the barn

and I am in the stable full of hay
and clover as animal heat flushes
my pregnant skin and I want
to stroke the lamb’s curls as I pant
in labor I want to slide the palm
of my hand over the horse’s soft
mane want my legs to grip the leathery
back of the muscular bull and I snap

open my eyes to see Mephistopheles
grinning at me and I gasp as if he’s
holding my breath like a cloud in his hand.

His daughter hits the quiet kid beside her
while the teacher asks us to close our eyes
fold our hands
and begins to pray for all of us.


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