Absolution by Katie Curlee Hamblen

Absolution 2
Illustration by Sydney Varajon


Around my neck hangs    a tiny, silver disc, dulled by the oil of my skin, and sunscreen,
so small    it’s hard to recognize the full-haloed figure.     I like it that way.
Would hate for anyone to mistake me for something I’m not.

“Is it a saint or something?”

asks the lady at the YMCA who notices it as I give my children into her care to get 30 minutes of peace and cardio.

I surprise myself, seeking Mary’s blessing. Who am I to request it?


now that I’m a mother, I’m a hair-trigger cryer.     Obliterated any defense I had against tales of children grown       and children lost,
I have tears on tap, the hormonal tide permanently in,
since my body was so altered.

As my babies become toddlers, and scale highchairs and dance on the edges of couches, I dread the day they learn to leap.

How many heart-stopping moments can I survive?


Right before you arrived, I was as scared as I’d ever been. Afraid the fear would crack me, again. Suddenly sure I’d ruined you with forbidden turkey sandwiches and rationed sips of wine.

Awake, as the scalpel sliced into my too-taut belly, parted the tissues, a Mexican dip layered with skin, fat, muscle.

Before she began to cut, the doctor said,      “I’m pinching you really hard,”
and I didn’t feel a thing, so I trusted her,     and I was

numb,     numb with anesthetic below and
numb with seizing terror above the waist.

Your daddy, sitting by my head, told me he could see the lower half of my body behind the curtain, wriggling back and forth
like a snake as the doctors
maneuvered you both out of me.

When I heard your wails, it pierced my panic in an instant,
tied me to
something new,
flooded me with


You will not find me at church, confessing my sins to a man who has not earned them. Kneeling in pews,

or lighting the wick of a white votive in the nest of sweet wax smell
and little flames   to
mingle with the prayers of others.

      The rules in these   Houses of God don’t make sense to me, they make me itchy for the

outdoors, but I still

love ritual

and so I go to the

neighborhood Mercado, instead, and pick out tall candles plastered with
pictures of    Mary, sacred heart,    Virgen de Guadalupe,

and a plain blue candle for good health, symbolic of that other mother, the one who will cradle us for good, one day,

one day far from now,

         I pray.


My little ones, I feel I am not
working hard enough for the easy forgiveness
bestowed by your young memories.

So many nights, your daddy is not home until it’s almost time for you to
sleep.   O those long days,    tethered, I am full of thanks for the
gift of being with you,
and I envy
others with freedom, and work, and a place where they are known.

I still crave     recognition in the world.

Sitting before these mother-candles, at my own altar, the one I made up for myself, I
strive to accept grace for all of
my small failures.
I talk to Mary, sometimes,                because she is a mother and must know all about the
plaguing worries of parenthood.

My flaws, I feel so keenly, scatterbrained and self-involved, each time you tumble
is a painful regret,
every instance of my own raised voice,
as your small face crumples at a sharp word, I tell you,
I’m sorry. Please forgive me,

and you do, with soft little arms wound around my neck.

IMG_3545Katie Curlee Hamblen lives in Nashville with her husband, two babies and two dogs. She is a recovering lawyer who is still figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. 

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