To Church

There was a time

I didn’t dread going to church.


The carpet would dot my knees

with peaks and valleys,

unnoticed vexations of genuflection

left until the service’s conclusion,

testaments to my concentration’s depth.

Then I would explore the irritated indents,

pocked flesh piles of dried currants,

with the pad of my pointer finger.


But in the service my head would bow,

the tiny bones in my neck protruding

like the ridges of a dinosaur.

The crayon in my hand a swirling top,


across the bulletin,

over announcements,

around hymns,

the pew turned table.


My limbs extended.

And still there was a time I didn’t dread going to church.


The morning of my confirmation

I strutted past beaming baby boomers

standing sentry at the sanctuary’s entrance.

My immaculate white clothing

straining against my chest,


in direct opposition of my violently thrust shoulders

and cock-like posture.


My mouth cinched tight in superiority and pride.

I accepted my first communion.

The wafers: flesh.

The wine: blood.

I, the perfect-postured zombie,

Head-lolling on stiff spine,

shoveling down the body of my Savior.

Blind dedication the spade in my right hand;

surface-level understanding the trowel in my left.


My limbs stretched further, to their limits, leaving stains on my skin when I grew up too fast.


And there was a time I didn’t dread going to church.


Because I no longer go to church at all.

My mind,

once an organized office space,

has been devastated by a magnitude 8 earthquake.

The cabinets housing my understanding

of equality, equity, and equivalence

have not been upended.

They have been flung, flipped.


The definitions I once knew ooze from drawers like spilt ink cartridges.

The fluorescents dangle from floss wire suspension,

the sparks they shoot neurons

too enthused to convey any message

beyond the high-pitched shrieking

of a person overcome by anxiety.


I stopped going to church

because I stopped believing in the church.

A building was not, could never be, my saving grace.


I have not found peace.

I gained no strength in discovering the fraud of conformity.

But I cannot handle life alone.


When I colored on the pews,

my parents perched at my sides,

pillars surrounding my faith.


When I was confirmed,

I was surrounded by proud peers and prouder instructors,

pillars surrounding my faith.


The presence of their faith cannot warrant the existence of my own.


But I wonder: have these pillars of past protection granted me the capability of leaning in on myself without collapsing?


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About the Author

Melissa Martin is a sophomore at UNCC pursuing dual degrees in psychology and English. Her talents include eating multiple Cosmic Brownies a day without tiring of them and slipping the word “incredible” into every conversation. She is incredibly fond of her friends, family, and reading.