I just watched the film Man on Fire again tonight. There are few films more disturbing about vengeance. And despite the success of its anti-hero, I see violence as a poor cathartic. I do not subscribe to the lynch mob calls for oblique justice like those hoping Roman Polanski will be extradited and forced to pay for his own alleged sins and those of a growing mob’s perpetrators of pain. It seems to me that it is a bit late to revisit the morality of either Polanski, his accuser or the reportedly power abusing prosecutors and judges in his case.
My motto has become: “Writing well is the best revenge.” Having to examine, catalogue and give order to horror in order to render it into art can effect great healing. But, I am sympathetic to those who scream our in the name of justice because where forgiveness of abuse is possible, the ability to forget is a myth.
Father Dan Maio, who was in charge of a Pueblo, Colorado youth program in the 1970’s was the epitome of evil: The proverbial wolf in priest’s clothing. Maio, the subject of the poem below, used the power entrusted to him as a priest to emotionally wound dozens of diocesan Catholic youngsters from decent homes and several mentally challenged inmates housed at the Colorado State Hospital. He used drugs, music, personal charm and manipulative psychological seminars and retreats to lure his victims. He was protected by church-bred reverence for his station and the misguided arrogance of accomplices like his assistant Father Jerry Varrone and his confessor Bishop Buswell. This was written both for catharsis and to give credence, and hopefully some measure of comfort, to the pain expressed by those he and others like him have hurt.
Mystery of Faith
There were many boys who knew the sound of black
patent leather coming down the hardwood hall
a floor above the nuns, like Mary Elizabeth,
existing on a belief in simple answers
but who would never feel
the drool, the musk
or late day stubble
on their cheeks
Maybe Sister came here once to answer the same questions:
How do you forget the making and breaking of a spirit?
How do you wash away the incense of aggression?
When does grown-up flesh release its hold
on small bones?
How do women stand it? I cannot forget even one turn of cold brass
or stillness rushing from the room, or prayers taking me
from my body, eyes fixed on the rectory’s stained ceiling.
I would be yanked back by the horrifying
rituals of the familiar: the thin vinegar
of communion wine on his breath,
the tiny cruciform medallion
raping against my chest,
vapors of toxic celibacy
I’d try to hold my breath when he left,
and scrub the stiffening linen,
remove every corporeal trace
of the god who claimed
he was a delinquent’s
last and only chance
Sometimes I thought I knew more about being a woman
than did Sister Mary and I longed for her easy beliefs.
But, I never risked asking the questions
that can destroy such a faith
When do we accept, like her, a God like the wind
who polices the night, rattles doorknobs and whispers
reassuringly to us past locked doors
that I can close my eyes again
to the dark?American Poet in China,poems,Poetry,sexual abuse