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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 14, 2017.
About this Poem 

“This poem presents the family as a form of religion, with many of the same hierarchies, rituals, and hypocrisies. Though the organizational structure of the familial church is theoretically based in love and the development of our best selves, the realities that actually evolve through that complex space often lead instead to damage, estrangement, and distress.”
—Jennifer Militello

Lineage Is Its Own Religion

I was an apostle to the group of you, strangers
who had known me since I was born. I ate
of your flesh. I drank of your blood. Sipped
the elixir of your moods. Put the remainders
in the tabernacle, wiped the goblet clean with
a cloth. The crosses branded into the wafers
were your voices branded onto my heart.
I heard you live forever. I heard you rise.
The bones of you yield to the memory of flesh,
and we count our blessings and also bless.
We are bright in anticipation of death,
we are living like fissures and set against waste,
and the taste is bitter, left in our mouths.
I am dying, I am dead, lord of the losses, lord
of the faith. I take each breath and my chest
expands. Now I stand knee deep in the muck
unable to move, and if I dip my hands in,
they will fill with bracken and all the thickness
of each formless face, kicking up stones,
until you are gone, mythic lisp the lips
shape. One day, you vanish like a flash.
Confessions in a dark room. Firmaments to read
and spin like dice. I genuflect twice at the edge
of your pews. I kiss the book for you. This is what
the word of family can do. Sit at the round table.
Break bread. In the beginning, the loveless
made the world and saw that it was good.

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Militello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Militello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jennifer Militello

Jennifer Militello

Jennifer Militello is the author of A Camouflage of Specimens (Tupelo Press, 2016), Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013), and Flinch of Song (Tupelo Press, 2009), winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award.

by this poet

poem

Take the man you think you love and his
fabulous lips. Take him from one place
to the next. Let him drive your car. Let him
drive it through the mood-crazed woods
until it overheats. Let the nights feed
from your eyes as you look at him. Do
not turn on the heat. Do not spill
the

poem

Place its toothpicked pit in water, watch the grist
of its insides grow. Witness its populous bloom,

honeycombed with rough. Its cobblestones grip
the heart in its mitt, a closed fist thickened

and gritty as silt. The swamp of the plumb beat
adamant as weeds. The dish of which is salted