True Religion

by Bryne Lewis

A close up of a beautiful bright green bird

Hearers Only
When we were girls, our neighbor kept a
parakeet who mimicked the radio. A nervous
flutter of green nestled in black and white,
shreds of yesterday’s early edition paper.

Its cage rustled with constant static, indistinct
but insistent mumblings, a newscast heard from
the next room. My mother always switched
the TV channel when we entered.

Doers of the Word
My sister and I regularly shuttled our neighbor
homemade offerings from our kitchen:
loaves, leftovers, duplicate casseroles.
Mrs. Criple worked the luncheon counter on
Main Ave. Mornings, she would pass our house
in blue and white cotton, a uniform
we recognized from the Brady Bunch.

Late afternoons, she would reward our
pre-dinner visits with candy necklaces.
Be good girls and don’t tell your mother.
We kept the secret. The sugar beads didn’t
last long anyway.

Widows
I don’t remember my mother’s explanation: that
Mrs. Criple’s husband was dead, already many
years ago.
Why didn’t she get married again?
We couldn’t think beyond this eventuality,

played royal wedding with our Babci’s evening
wear cast-offs and costume jewelry.
Diana was everything we dreamed of.
I was older and always insisted on marrying the
king. My sister could have a prince.

Pure and Undefiled
On Easter Sunday, we paraded white and pink
patent leather shoes past Mrs. Criple’s porch.
She offered applause, foil wrapped coins that
tasted more of wax than chocolate.

My mother scolded us not to eat them before
church, white gloves worn to safeguard against
the temptation. Surreptitiously, we peeled them
off during the sermon, added our expected
contributions with sticky fingers to
the heavy offering plate.

Observe in the Mirror
I don’t remember being told our neighbor had
died. Maybe another piece of news my mother
sought to shelter from us.
The obit never appeared on our fridge.

I remember that a cousin moved in,
an older man, unmarried, which we accepted as
not the same as widowed. We didn’t bring him
meals and he didn’t offer us candy.
Which is just as well.

I don’t know what happened to the parakeet.
I want to think it got a job as an anchor
on a local broadcast station, maybe announcing
the weather or traffic updates. I miss its
feathered static and the indulgence of
not being expected to understand.

Bryne Lewis
Living in Bloomsburg, PA, Bryne Lewis is a philosopher, poet, artist and industrial psychologist. Her poems have appeared in Janus Head: A Journal of Philosophy and Art, The Anglican Theological Journal, and The Penwood Review. In 2010, her poem “Conjoined” won first prize in the “Love at the Mutter” poetry contest, sponsored by the Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, PA.

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