Bad Girl at the Altar Rail

Flume Press at CSU, Chico, CA
Winner of the 2005 Chapbook Contest
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Bad Girl At The Altar Rail speaks in a voice that is wry and unflinching, sometimes painfully raw. These are poems filled with loss and the resulting intense emotion and vulnerability but also poems that create room for the ecstasy of body and spirit. Through it all, the woman speaker affirms the girl inside, her youthful presence and longing.

-Mary Crow,
Poet Laureate of Colorado,
author of  How I Have Tasted The Apple

As a nurse, I am used to dealing with death and grief, with hearing the confessions of saints and sinners. I thought I had nothing more to learn, then I read these poems. Sharon Charde is a wise teacher, not ignoring the permanence of grief, the assurance of death, nor the risk of love, yet able to lead us, gently and surely, beyond despair.

-Cortney Davis,
author of Leopold’s Maneuvers,
winner of the 2003 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry

Sharon Charde writes of a woman who “fears her faith” and of another who pays the “stigmata’s price.” Being bad, but at the altar, is a dare Charde gives to herself and to her readers. Her spiritual arguments and poetic journeys are grounded in honesty. She moves her metaphors with determination and revelation throughout the pages of this fine first book.

-Susan Kinsolving,
The White Eyelash and Dailies and Rushes,
(finalist, The National Book Critics Circle Award)



I’ve always lived from between my legs,
a bad girl at the altar rail, apologizing
to God for touching myself, for my new blood
spreading stains. I say to God,  Forgive me,
I’m dirty, but feel the pulse there, the open
socket I could plug into. There was so much
death around me, the dead animals we ate,
the bulldozed farmland filled with new houses,
trees killed for walls-- those maggots in the deep
garbage pit behind the garage I had to empty
the scraps into each night, stepping hard on
the heavy iron lever to open it. So much death
that surge had to push against, my heavy thighs
and new breasts, sad end of innocence.

And then there was Jesus Himself
skewered on the cross before me, dripping
dead with blood, groin wrapped in white linen,
that centerpiece even on Him secret--I thought
that was something to stay alive with.
They told us He died for our sins and here I was,
sinning and bleeding. But I wanted life so I played
the edge, hell on one side, the pulse on the other.
I thought the odds were with me. Years later I knew
better but back then the men, the women who  smelled
my need found me, and I gave what I had with them
a name: happiness.