Poem of the week: My Last Day as an Altar Boy

A new poem by Gerry Murphy

(i.m. Father Tom Lynch)

Early morning Mass in the convent, 
I am assisting Father Lynch. 
We are proceeding along the line
at the altar rail, he dispensing the Host,
while I hold the paten 
under the chins of the receivers, 
to catch any falling crumbs. 
As we come to a neighbour of mine, 
eyes closed, tongue protruding, 
his exaggerated piety suddenly irks me. 
Just as he is about to receive the Host, 
I give him a swift chop in the throat
with the paten.
As he gasps and croaks, 
Father Lynch shoots me a quizzical look, 
I return an apologetic shrug,
indicating that my hand slipped.
We continue as before.

Father Lynch never mentions it, 
but we both know I have transgressed
once too often
and this is my last day as an altar boy.

Gerry Murphy’s most recent collection is The Humours of Nothingness (Dedalus Press)