Altar Boy
In black cassock & white cotta
I brought the flame & held the Word
holy & lonely 
like you, Father McCarthy 
your pockmarked cheeks
& cheery homilies
the way you’d intone Kevin
as if assuring me you knew
my lack & need
to serve your mass
ready your wine & water
to kneel beside the bells
& be careless for nothing
on your altar
You were early 30s but severe
hair in place & parted
a gold signet on your right hand
to clink against the chalice
lifted above our faces all black
except yours
then wiped clean with a kerchief
I’d laid out starched
& white
After I took a saint’s name
at Confirmation
I was done with Catechism
& started the bleak stations
of middle school
those sorrowful stations
I stopped serving
came by occasionally
for confession
for midnight mass at Christmas
when the older boys carried your train 
as you swung the thurible of frankincense 
blessing the old ones 
clutching their beads
& crossing themselves
while the young ones like me
fought for relevance 
in the pews
I remember the tie-dye chasuble
of your last Easter
its burnt orange & brown silk
flooding the aisle as you stepped 
from the altar to tell us the marvel
of resurrection & life of the world to come
Two years into Whitney’s voice
the mixtapes of sophomore year
when I grew out my flat top & kissed a senior
when you were stabbed five times, Father
through your throat  
some clear down to the spinal bone
but you weren’t dead 
so he wrapped it in electrical cord 
& pulled both ends until he was tired
& this took two tries & a rest
in between
but you weren’t dead yet
& I was probably watching a rerun
of The Cosby Show or sorting out my algebra
just a bus ride away from where
he poured salt into your eyes
& into your throat
on his eighth night there
that was after the claw hammer 
into your sandy brown hair
the night before he was to leave 
but December is a cold month 
even in New Orleans
& Marcus Hamilton was a muscular man, Father
Put his hands on me
every time I got near him
he testified
neither of you had a chance
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