Sin-Eater by Louise Robertson
Pudding Magazine #56

I ate his sins. At death, my grandfather was
laid out--eyes and mouth
glued shut and face smooth
without the smiles.

It used to be a sin-eater
came and ate
food set out and pocketed a penny
and took the sins of the deceased
and was hailed
with curses and out the door he went.

At my grandfather's funeral,
I stood before them and reflected
upon the man who--surgeon--
was his girlfriends' abortionist, who--brother
--hid the mafia's counterfeit money and guns,
used an axe to break into his departing
wife's house, who--father--
loved his daughters by
giving them money and laughing
when they got their first period.
By asking me to talk
over the body, my mother
placed the dead-cake on his
chest. So I
took the coin and ate the bread,
said that he, the deceased, my grandfather
gave us many things--money,
clothes, toys, but the biggest
thing he gave us was unconditional
love. The crowd nodded and they told
each other, "That is exactly right. Yes, yes."

It wasn’t “exactly” right.
What he really gave us was his
daughter and she—she was the one
who loved us so. I wiped my mouth after
the service and wondered when the curses
would stop hailing on me: that was just right, you
did well, yes, yes. Just right.

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The Schuylkill Valley Journal publishes poetry, short stories and critical essays. Both the SVJ and SVJ LIT come out twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.
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