The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Sue Lick

Catholic at the Holy Roller Church


Oh God, I’m overdressed,
me in my slacks and sweater set,
matching necklace, earrings, watch,
flagrantly Catholic and out of place,
head full of incense and et cum spiritu tuo,
rosary beads still in my purse,
but my neighbor died and here I am.

Black chairs on concrete floor,
wooden stage up front, no Jesus,
just the giant word “Redeemed”
and my chiropractor tuning a red guitar.
Video screens project my neighbor’s face
as a teenager with long black hair,
not the gap-toothed blonde I knew.
The place is packed with families.
I sit in the back on the end, alone.

Yes, a Catholic who didn’t procreate
and didn’t bring a husband either. I know
they’re going to try to save my soul.
They can see the aching in my heart.
But first we sing “Amazing Grace”
with a rocking beat, words on the screen.
Folks raise their hands in ecstasy
as I clasp my fingers in a tight little knot,
mumbling words, looking around.

Amen, says my chiropractor.
Amen, we parrot back, and the pastor,
35 at most with rolled-cuff jeans
and a scraggly beard I long to trim,
preaches the good news, yells it in joy,
Gospel quotes projected on the screen.
He praises God for taking my friend away
to be with Him in heaven, hallelujah.
We all shout hallelujah back.

Her daughters celebrate her life.
They never say she died, they say
she transitioned, went to be with the Lord
and she prays for us all to be there, too.
Now the pastor wants to know who’s ready
to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
People raise their hands. I do! I do!
even the fat guy standing next to me.
I wonder: Does being Catholic count?
I squeeze my hands so tight they hurt.



Sue Lick

Shooting in San Berdoo


When they dressed in red and green,
jingle-bell earrings and Santa hats,

when they made strawberry Jell-O
with whipped cream and pretzel sticks,

when they set long tables with red napkins,
paper plates and plastic silverware,

when they hung scarlet streamers and played
Nat King Cole on the MP3,

when they toasted with cider and mulled Merlot
and ate chocolate from a big white box,

when they entered that world of green and red,
they never imagined the blood or the dead,

gunshots, sirens, cops, a rain of camera clicks,
melted Jell-O with floating pretzel sticks.




SUE FAGALDE LICK is a writer, musician and dog mom living on the Oregon coast. She strayed into the newspaper business for about 30 years, but she'd rather write poems and essays. Her work has appeared recently in New Letters, Tenemos, Apple Valley Review, and other publications. Her books include Stories Grandma Never Told and Childless by Marriage.



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