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The Colonel Attends Midnight Mass


(St. Andrew’s, Isleham, Cambridgeshire)

 We were sisters, for certain, in our cynicism.

The Colonel had taught us at the age of three

That G-O-D was, quite frankly,

A Metaphysical Singularity;

That angels were airy falsities

Invented by dreamers,

Rejected by the Scientific Community;

That flying buttresses would never really fly

Off the sides of cathedrals;

And that stained glass was a sure sign

Of the Church’s vanity.


During midnight mass, attending as a duty,

The Colonel shifted in his rigid stance,

As the choir broke into a forgotten version

Of “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,”

The hens clucked, the roosters crowed,

A virtual barnyard in the pew behind us.

My baby sister prodded me in the side, grinning

And nodding knowingly towards the Colonel.

I turned and saw the Colonel’s eyes roll heavenward

As if to ask that incorrigible Singularity,

“Why has thou forsaken all sanity?”


This was the very same Colonel

Who had us bow in reverence at dinnertime

Just before we supped and quietly

Kicked each other underneath the table.

A sigh from Mother as she clenched, nerves grated

At the Colonel’s version of grace, which often began with

“Oh, Lord…You are so big…”

And the giggling would start again.

Poor Mother died every night of embarrassment.


Despite the jokes, despite the cynicism,

I was the daughter who really know

How the Colonel felt about Possibility,

The extremity of it, the feeling that

Eternity was waiting stoically behind Reason.

Even so, we fidgeted and counted the dust motes,

And the Colonel swore under his breath,

Never again would we sit through midnight mass.






In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Cousin It.”

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