My sister thinks I’m a saint
and falls to her knees when I pass.
I remember what belief felt like:
pews and bowed heads and lips
peaked with desires. Church was a place.
I think it smelled like mildew or maybe
that was the bathrooms I hid in when
the sermons got too long. The summer
before second grade, I went to a church
camp. They played familiar songs on
banjos, the strings snapping halfway
through. We sung along and they
changed the lyrics away from sex and
drugs to praying and bibles. One of the
counselors was a high school student.
He liked to hold my hand between
activities. I wonder how he’s doing now.
I think his name was Alex. Or maybe John.
My mother thinks I’m a demon
and surrounds my room with salt.
She took three years of Spanish in
high school and retains nothing but
the curses. With her white accent, she
tells me to go to hell and I pretend
not to understand. At church camp, they
told me if I didn’t accept god into my
heart I was going down below. They said
my Jewish friends, my Muslim friends,
my Atheist friends would all have a place
there. I spit in their faces and they sent
me to the corner where I cried until they
felt bad. Next time, I’ll throw salt back at her.
My father thinks I’m an angel
and never dares to come close.
I’m made of light, in his mind,
delicate matter that burns at
the touch, and maybe that’s why
he stays away. He still writes
me letters on my birthday, and
every other December, I stay
at his new house with his new
mortal family: he doesn’t have
to be afraid of them. He can touch
them, hold them. My sister doesn’t
remember him, not his face or name,
and I don’t tell her either. We were the
only family at Church cleaved in two,
and I heard people whisper that
the bible condemns divorce. But that
union birthed an angel, so even
if temporary, I say we deserve a temporary
reprieve. Can we ask the saints for that?
First appeared in The Lumiere Review (June 2021)
By Natalie Hampton
Natalie Hampton is a rising junior at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the Creative Writing Department. She has been recognized at the National level of the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition and by the Harris County Department of Education, the Young Poets Network, the Pulitzer Center, and Ringling College of Art and Design. She serves as an editor at Polyphony Lit and Cathartic Literary Magazine. She has taken online workshops and classes with Iowa, Brown, Sewanee, and Ellipsis Writing.