Penance by Wayne F. Burke

the retarded class at Howling Avenue Grammar,
taught by Charlie Baguette’s father,
sold tickets each year to
support their activities;
Charlie and me found a box of them
in his father’s study
and we took them door-to-door
in the neighborhood
selling each for a dollar.
We rode our bicycles up-street
to the toy store
and spent the money;
my grandmother asked me how did I get
the new toys
and I lied
and she gave me dirty looks
all day
and the next
but I stuck to my story
until Saturday
when I went to confession
and told the priest
what I had done
and he said
for penance
I was to bring the toys back
then return the money to the
people who bought tickets;
I thought of Mrs. Hellman
her hesitation and
flicker of distrust on her face
and she handed over the dollar,
and I knew I could not,
would not,
go back to her
or to the others.

Wayne F. Burke’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications (including “In Between Hangovers”). His three published poetry collections, all from Bareback Press, are WORDS THAT BURN, DICKHEAD, and KNUCKLE SANDWICHES. His chapbook PADDY WAGON is published by Epic Rites Press. He lives in Vermont.

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