(Josh Applegate/Unsplash)

Confession wasn’t what I imagined: I didn’t kneel
     before the shadowed priest. We met behind the sanctuary

in the room where they stored unused candles,
     extra robes. Backstage is the word I kept thinking.

The priest gave a blessing, then I opened my notebook
     and read everything I’d done out loud. Twenty-six years,

seven damning pages. He told me to destroy them,
     to say a single Hail Mary as penance. I went out

and sat down in a pew. I said my prayer so slowly,
     then there was nothing left to do. Is this how you felt

when the Lord said go, and sin no more? Did you want
     something like those stones? There was still light

outside, a dim glow in the stained-glass windows.
     I’m forgiven now, I said, and I tried very hard to feel it.

Published in the February 2023 issue: View Contents

Caleb Nolen grew up in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He completed his MFA at the University of Virginia and has received support from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Blue Mountain Center. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Fence, the Georgia Review, and elsewhere.

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