The Trial of Mary McCormick
By Robert Cooperman

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The Trial of Mary McCormick


The Trial of Mary McCormick
copyright © 1990 by Robert Cooperman

Poet Bio
    Robert Cooperman

Sample Poems
   Father Matthews Hears the Confession of Mary McCormick
   Donald Lowry Grieves for Mary McCormick
   Mary McCormick After Her Trial Against the Priests

Poet Bio

Robert Cooperman

Robert Cooperman lives with his wife in Pikesville, Maryland. His collection, "Pictures of Odysseus," is forthcoming from Linwood Publishers. His chapbook, "Seeing the Elephant," was published by The Panhandler Press. His work has appeared in The American poetry Review, College English, The Southern Poetry Review, among others. He is currently working on a long sequence of poems about the lives and the deaths of the Romantic poets. "The Trial of Mary McCormick" is the winner of Slipstream's Third Annual Poetry Chapbook Competition.

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Father Matthews Hears the Confession of Mary McCormick

Not yet seventeen
and a voice like spring rain,
her silhouetted profile soft
as a saint's except for the earrings
that glitter even in this twilight.
Nothing, I'm sure would shock her,
because she knows how difficult
this life is for a man
who can only listen
to the sins allowed others.

I wish she were sitting here
and I kneeling to her,
but with nothing between us
but the rustling of clothes
that come undone with a touch,
and underneath, all
the sweetness in the world.

But God hears these thoughts
spinning like the tongue
of the stupid old woman
who will kneel and whine,
her mouth flapping
for half an evil hour
after this dove-throated girl
performs her penances,
her sins flying away
like pigeons circling the park
where she meets her young man,
while this other is Christ's
very cross, straight and hard,
confessing her petty sins to prove
what a Christian soul she possesses.

If only I could touch Mary once
I'd carry a thousand old witches
on my back aching with sin,
right into the fiery crotch of Hell.

Copyright © 1990 Robert Cooperman

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Donald Lowry Grieves for Mary McCormick

She sat across from me in history class,
so pretty I never had the guts
to say a word. Even when I scored
twenty-nine points in the quarter-final
we beat St. Al's—the whole school
roaring my name at the buzzer—
I couldn't grab myself by the collar
and say two clever words to her,
earrings like gold fish you want to touch,
but afraid their tiny bodies would die
of fright in your gorilla's mitts.

I never believed the stories:
her and priests. I'd have beaten
the fathers' brains in and laughed
all the way to Hell
if that would've made her happy
or stopped tongues from flicking
like snakes gobbling mice.
They must've forced her, the bastards:
in their black frocks and holy faces.

She never came back for senior year;
the next I heard of her was that article
I read one lunch break, my mouth
wide as the tabloid's page.
If the other guys on the site
hadn't nudged each other at "stretch,"
I'd have cried right there,
straddling a beam on the eighth story.

I wanted to call her, to say
I hoped she took the parish down to the altar candles,
but how to explain that
to Kathleen, pregnant again?
I doubt if Mary would've remembered me,
the gawkiest basketball player
in the history of St. Brendan's,
Kathleen the only girl who'd speak to me,
declaring we'd be married one day,
as if I had nothing to say about it.

Copyright © 1990 Robert Cooperman

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Mary McCormick After Her Trial Against the Priests

I doubt if there's a priest in the world
who'll hear my confession now.
"You're rich," they'll smile.
"What do you need salvation for?
Just remember, Christ waits to judge."

I'm sure He has already;
the money one more test of my soul,
like the sweetness of Father Connolly;
the dollars disguising evil,
just as he made me forget my sinning
with soft words and knowing hands,
with the presents he laid in my palms.
I was afraid I'd bleed there,
Jesus making me foul.

I'd give the money away,
but the fathers would expect me
to donate it to a mission in Africa
where people are starving,
their babies' bellies swelling
lips cracked but calling Jesus
and His Holy Mother to carry them to Paradise,
where there's water, food for everyone,
moist winds, and slow moving cattle.

Maybe I will give their mission some,
using a name no one could ever guess,
but I'll keep the rest.
It's mine, just like Jimmy,
like the fathers never were.
Maybe someday a priest'll listen
while I kneel in the safe dark and whisper
what's been done to me, what I've done
in the name of obedience;
and he'll give me a hard penance that's fair.

Maybe I'll meet a man
who has no idea who I am,
who works hard with his hands
and doesn't drink, and gets Dad to stop,
and loves little boys named Jimmy,
and thinks I'm pretty and smart and good,
who'll marry me, all in white in a church,
who'll take me to the Grand Canyon
and never think my sin so deep
it could fill that hole in,
make a mountain of the evil left over.

Copyright © 1990 Robert Cooperman

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