Lies Outside the St. Thomas Aquinas Bathroom

Jo Clark


She does not waste time.


she says, and her eyes are the same color

as the olive tree that was broken down to build the

nativity scene

              you know that if you become a nun,

              your mother will go to heaven.

This is her gospel.

and it stumbles into my mouth like


drunk on the blood of hope—


It wedges itself in between pews

and beneath fingernails,

creates an asthma attack

in place of a homily, the incense are burning

my grandmother’s perfume,

I am consumed wholly, and the priest

eyes me at communion—

he can see the sin, heaving

              in my chest.

I bow before my mother takes her first steps,

watch his lips move, say to her

              take this and eat of it.



I can always stand up straighter after supplication.

My palms upraised, and curved into the right hand

of my father, calling out the Lord’s prayer.

Wellbeing for days, until

              Peace be with you, she says, Another Girl

              —with oak tree eyes—she takes my hand,

softer than knees pressed against the slate

floor, shoulders curved, chisel fingers scrawling scripture on the bathroom door.

I beg every girl, every nun, each twisting snake in my chest—

              tell my mother hello in heaven.

Jo Clark is a student, poet, and journalist born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is currently pursuing a double major in poetry composition and Medieval and Renaissance literature at the University of Virginia. She is the poetry curator for V-Magazine at UVA and a senior writer for The Cavalier Daily. She has been published in The Stardust Review and Prospectus: A Literary Offering. She has work forthcoming in Q* Anthology. She hopes to one day release a full-length collection of poetry.