By Janet Pocorobba

November 25, 2019


Just twelve people. People I didn’t know from Adam. I could have refused. Could’ve shaken my head and deferred to any one of them. Inside me, I felt a squeezing in my chest. Even as I write this I can feel again that bound-up thumping of my heart, feel the warm still air, the smell of the creaky pews, light casting down through stained glass, all of us in the honey jar of light together. And I want you to feel it, too—the quiet still air we were all breathing, the murmur of Charlie, restless on his mother’s lap, the bowed heads as I rose and walked out of my pew to where Joanne, a farmer’s wife from down the road, handed me the chalice, weighty and full, the sharp tang of grape juice, blood-like and alert, as the twelve of them started to move forward to greet us and I held out the chalice and let each person take it in their hands like the cheek of a beloved and tilt it to draw its sweetness to their parched lips, after which I smoothed a white linen cloth along the rim, wiping away sins and sorrows and preparing for the next. You’re new in this town and don’t know anyone but standing still like that, slowing, repeating, not going anywhere, offering all you have in your hands—a sip of cold sweetness—the thing in your chest unfurls and you begin, in all your strangeness, to become known.


Janet Pocorobba teaches nonfiction in the Lesley MFA Program. Her writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Harvard Review, The Writer, Kyoto Journal, and elsewhere. Her memoir, The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me, came out in March of this year. She lives in Calais, VT.

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