Nathan Graziano

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

God Bless My Circle-Soul

The elderly priest tried to explain the soul to our CCD class,
twenty second-graders with our hands folded on our desks.
The priest drew a circle on the blackboard and told us
that the circle was our soul and each time we sinned—
or thought about sinning—a checkmark blighted it.
A heavy man with flaps of skin spilling from his collar,
the priest told us that God monitored our circle-souls
as they filled with terrible checkmarks and he said the only way
to obliterate the checkmarks was to confess our wretched sins
to a Catholic priest, a disembodied voice behind a metal screen.  

Not wanting to carry my sins like spiritual luggage,
and not having a priest accessible all hours of the day
when a sin would pop into my head with a firecracker snap,
I started confessing every impure thought to my mother.
While riding in the backseat during long car rides, I’d lean
over to whisper my sins to my mom in the passenger seat.
I’d tell her when I thought about cursing or wished
my sister to fall out of the car, obsessed with the checkmarks.
My mother, perhaps starting to realize my neuroses were rooted
in her insistence on raising me Catholic, would tell me
to say three “Hail Mary’s” and stare out the car window.

Thirty years later, I haven’t been to confession in two decades
and I’m sure I could shed ten pounds of checkmarks alone
if I went to the church and unburdened my circle-soul.

Or I could lean across this page, and whisper in your ear,
“I just thought about a woman’s breasts, and I liked it.”


Nathan Graziano lives Manchester, New Hampshire. His latest book of flash fiction titled Almost Christmas was released by Redneck Press in 2017. For more information, check out his website .