JOAN KWON GLASS
“Last Communion” asks the reader to consider the cultural norms of white, Christian society when it comes to grief and forgiveness. What do we lose by demanding that the dead be considered saintly? What do we lose when we hide our own truths from the world—and more importantly—from one another and even ourselves?
Here I am, kneeling again before a man
who tells me I can be holy while insisting that nothing
is permanent, not even my precious sins.
I am washed in the blood, longing for something sacred,
tongue hanging over my bottom lip like a dog.
I like to read between the lines of obituaries, try
to guess what their family members left out on purpose.
You can tell a lot by what isn’t there. For example,
vague obit of healthy teenager: death by overdose,
50-year-old mom who was a brave warrior: breast cancer,
30-year-old male, donations to NAMI in lieu of flowers: suicide.
My sister was an asshole, and now she’s dead.
Though her life ended at 37, I wrote her eulogy
as though she died at age nine,
because that was the last time she wasn’t an asshole,
and I wanted to say something true
without pissing everyone off.
Here’s the thing–if all we have to do to erase
our gravest mistakes is take communion or stop breathing
one day, what is keeping us from making them all,
from relishing each one, knowing in the end,
they will not define us?
When I die, please tell everyone the truth about me.
That I walked around this place believing
I was a little better than most. That twice I turned away
from true love out of pride, revered books more
than men. That I did, in fact, have a favorite child.
While you’re at it, reveal this truth about us all—
that each of us has secrets we take to the grave,
things we want to admit, but are certain no one wants to hear.
Tell them that the very last time I ever took communion,
I closed my lips around the priest’s finger, let him
feel my hot tongue against his skin. And he let me.
Joan Kwon Glass is the mixed-race, Korean American author of NIGHT SWIM (Diode Editions, 2022) & three chapbooks. She serves as Editor-in-Chief for Harbor Review, as a Brooklyn Poets Mentor, is a proud Smith College graduate & has been a public school educator for 20 years. She serves on the faculty of Hudson Valley Writers Center & the Fine Arts Work Center of Provincetown. Her work has won or been a finalist for several prizes & her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize & Sundress Anthology Best of the Net. Joan’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Asian American Writer’s Workshop (The Margins), RHINO, Rattle, Dialogist & elsewhere. Please follow her on Twitter @joanpglass and see her website at www.joankwonglass.com. She lives in Connecticut with her family.
MORE FROM AUTUMN 2022 (4:2)
do you see me, Maya Hersh
Delineation of a Woman’s First Child as Her True Religion, Abduljalal Musa Aliyu
Busted Cantaloupe: Pilgrim, Isibeal Owens
Pray the Elegy, Njoku Nonso
Semper Augustus, Jessie Zechnowitz Lim
THE SEA SQUIRT LOSES ITS MIND, Claire Scott
The Long Call of Yearning, Guy D’Annolfo
Djinn and Men, Biswadarshan Mohanty
Last Communion, Joan Kwon Glass