First Friday Mass done, we children broke
Our twelve-hour fast with a home trek
For trendy Maypo or classic oatmeal
Unless mom’s absent beatific smile
Had soured with poverty or divorce;
Then we pushed for a seat at Pop’s or worse
Stood for grown-up ham, cheese, and scrambled eggs
With real men (like mom) working the dregs.
After lunch at Pop’s Baltimore Trolley stop,
We girls, the small parish frontier group,
Paused the noon hour back to school
At the Catholic gift shop of Billy Boyle
Where we spilled our shallow pocket cents
On holy cards. The one coveted most
Brandished Mary crushing the serpent Satan
On her elevator moon to heaven.
Mother never bought Christmas cards boxed.
But one by one, for fuzzy kin and just plain folks,
She vetted charming Billy’s merchandise
Like the only bee in Paradise.
I drifted, still faithful by her side,
To sacred stuff—would patience provide?
Rosaries of pearls or twinkling crystal,
And St. Joseph’s Daily (bilingual) Missal.
From the apartment on Kingsessing
With a shopping bag of season’s greetings
We took the Baltimore Trolley, then bus
To the dark Market Street post office,
A cathedral of the unblessed sort,
Long gone like Woolworth’s, Horn & Hardart,
The old brown woman selling sassafras,
A root Mother often drank for grace.