Heirloom by Claudia Morrison

Beside a vase of artificial flowers,
on my mother’s hall table,
there was a puzzling oblong object,
twelve inches by two, woven of thick
nubby wool dyed in two colors, brown and cream.

The pattern of the colors
made it look at first glance
as if there were written words on it,
indecipherable ones,
like Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Actually, it was a figure/ground puzzle:
only if you stared at it for a long time
did the background become foreground;
the cuneiform letters vanished,
and JESUS SAVES leaped out at you instead.

Everyone who “experienced” this revelation
exclaimed in admiration. Where on earth
had my mother found it, they asked.
In a church basement jumble sale, where else.

I intensely disliked this thing,
and my mother’s friends for liking it.
Religion got up my nose:
Jesus saves you from what? I wanted to ask,
from the hellish world he created for you,
the built-in pain and suffering you’ve endured?

I wasn’t very charitable back then;
I didn’t see the ray of sweetness
religion leant to their sour, shriveled lives,
like the soft blurred light of the bulbs
that glow on Christmas trees.

Which I still faintly distrust:
incomprehensible hieroglyphics
still seeming to me closer
to the truth of things.

Claudia Morrison retired a few years ago from John Abbott College.  She has authored two daughters, a novel, a short story collection, and a memoir.  Her Collected Poems was recently published by Broken Rules Press.

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