One All Souls’ Day

On that November morning, she slipped into
the dress she’d worn to the last family funeral—
blue and white pin-striped, navy flats to match,
the cashmere sweater from her grandmother
brought years before from Italy. In silence,
she and her husband drove to church,
attended the Mass for All Souls. They settled
themselves in the last pew, stood and knelt
on cue. A sermon on souls caught in purgatory,
those never baptized trapped in limbo.
They waited for others to leave, stood together,
walked the side aisles to the statue of Mary.
From a bucket of sand, she lifted a long wooden match
placed it in a flame. Her husband’s hand
steadied hers. They lit one candle, then another.
Years later, she told him she named them
that day. John Palmer after his grandfather,
Mary Jo after her mother and dead aunt.
Two souls in limbo never baptized, never born.

Winner of First Prize in Poetry, second annual contest of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.

First published in Accenti Magazine, Issue 4.

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