Adoration \\ California

The two poems are part of a work in progress, tentatively titled "Holy Faces," that takes the reader into the intersecting lives of a pair of gay men and a nun who is obsessed with the Holy Face of Jesus, from the 1920s through the early 2000s.


Milan, 1944
I have the medal of the Holy Face
That Mother Pia gave me. The morning through
The open shutters gargles clouds in blue
The colour of Our Lady’s mantle when she
Lifts the Lord up to her breasts and guides Him
To their tips. I reach for mine and slowly touch
Them through my Sunday frock – the left one first
And then the right. What does it feel like to be
Loved? I know that Jesus wants to take me
As His bride, but how the consummation of
Our love will be I just don’t know. Maybe 
It will be like this: a circling, then a pinch,
And then His wounded hands around my waist –
His Holy Face pressed against my opened heart.
“No one gives me a kiss of love on My
Face to make amends for the kiss of Judas.”
I will, Jesus. I will. I will. I will.


Toronto, 2000
“How did you meet Uncle Frank?” Caitlin asked.
Kev started to speak, then stopped. He needed the PG
Version. “Well, he used to say he stopped me 
Jumping off the Golden Gate.” He used to say.
He said. Once upon a time, there was a 
Man. “You tried to kill yourself?” OK, so that
Was the wrong way to start. “No! Of course not!’
Not there. Not then. “But that’s where we met. 19
67 – the summer of love.” “That’s
Soooo cute!” Teenage girls – Kev could never tell if
She was making fun of him. “This is Mom’s
Big gay brother,” is how she introduced him
To her friends the last time he was back in
Hartford. After Frank. “Was it love at first sight?”
Had it been? They’d caught each other’s eyes, locked
Gazes. Frank made the first move, of course. He winked
And licked his upper lip, wiggling the tip
Of his tongue. It was repulsive, honestly.

Or it should have been. But Kev was ... flattered?
Impressed? Some of the older Brothers looked at  
Him, of course, but always in a sheepish
Way, ashamed. Frank was shameless. “He was a lot
Older, right? I like ‘em older too. Boys
My age are ... boys. I want a man.” Holy shit!
He was gonna have to have a talk with 
Anne. Fifteen. “He was.” Twenty-two years older.
He should have known what he was getting into.
The man was so old he did impressions 
Of Al Jolson. “Open up that Golden Gate!”
Did he think that was seductive? Funny? 
But it worked. Sometimes when he got up these days,
Still half-asleep from Ativan and what
He told himself was grief, Kev could feel fingers
Running through his hair, smell the Old Spiced cheek
That pressed against his neck. The mark of a man.
He was supposed to go first. “You’ll leave me, won’t
You? High and dry, you little bitch,” Frank said.

Alex Rettie

Alex Rettie is an Alberta poet, songwriter, and book reviewer who writes from Calgary. He has poems published or forthcoming online or in print in journals in Canada, the US, and the UK.