Church Basement

It’s where I learned to back-slice
a ping pong ball,
the orange paddle
skimming the ball’s surface
careening it
in a devilish arcing spin,
a trick I learned from my uncle
fresh-faced in his uniform
just returned from Germany,
now speaking in an accent
foreign to our ears.

It’s where, alone with my boyfriend,
pressng tight against me
had wet the front of his pants,
going to the kitchen to wipe off,
my young ears uncomprehending
his Baptist apology.

We played spin the bottle 
in a church classroom
our teacher there watching.
From the wooden case
next to the Coke machine,
we took an empty bottle,
spun it on the grey tile floor.
When it stopped,
pointing to a cute boy,
we thought it daring to kiss long
on the lips with everyone watching.

In another classroom
alone in the silence, I knelt
kissing the wooden seat
of each chair
so I’d be sure to kiss
the one on which my boyfriend sat.

Sometimes men would hide
in the steeple with guns
shooting pigeons
who littered the steps
with liquid white.