Little Priest

Timothy Robbins


The mother who dressed her son
like a priest worked at a bakery
and brought home unwanted
donuts which kept them plump
and sugary and feeling a little
undeserving. He was eight when
she measured him for his clerical
clothing. He remembered getting
goosebumps, standing in the
parlor on the harsh rug, barefoot
in briefs and tank-top. Closely he
watched each stage of the making.
The radio was on and they
laughed and had fun in the room
lit by the single strong beam
aimed at the convergence of
needle, cloth and fingers. “You
mustn’t tell anyone,” she said
many times, often laughing and
yet serious, and he liked
instantly the conspiracy that
came to live with them, making
the flat less dingy. She wished
she could take down in shorthand
actual confessions from
family, friends and neighbors.
Still, she thought the sins she
made up for their sessions
couldn’t be far off the mark. They
used refrigerator boxes she got
from a store, telling the owner
they were for a puppet theater.
The fake sacraments went on for
two years. Then the mother died.
The lad went to close relatives,
then to high school, then
to the war. He was a passive
young man and attracted
lots of informal confessions.
Very few of the sins he heard
struck him as mortal. Most he
thought quite natural. After the
war he went into retail. Seminary
never tempted him. He always
wondered if his mother had wanted
him to take holy orders or if she
wanted to insure the opposite and
made him dress up the way some
parents make their kids smoke one
or even two boxes of cigarettes.


Timothy Robbins teaches English as a Second Language. He has published six volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books), Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press) Mother Wheel (Cholla Needles Press), This Night I Sup in Your House, and Florida and Other Waters ( He lives in Wisconsin with his husband of 26 years.



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