Mea Maxima Culpa Two Prose Poems by Cathy Shea

Mea Maxima Culpa

First, before I do anything, I want to say I am deeply sorry for postponing everything from sympathy cards to tax returns. Sticky note to myself: Do what I must do before the last God damned minute! And stop swearing when I’m late. Given every chance and all the warnings, I don’t have a leg to stand on and I’ve even been watched over by Mother Theresa from her heavenly wheelchair. Mother Theresa had tiny legs to stand on. In her quiet way she hid this shortcoming under the long skirts of her woolen habit, yet she got everything done on time and never blasphemed. Her only “dammit” built reservoirs for the poor. And if she ever said “fuck,” she would have been commanding married couples to procreate. Procrastinate, although derived from Latin, a language with which she was very familiar, was not in her vocabulary. And she is amused now, but compassionate as always, as she observes me putting off tasks, which she gently reminds me must be done while there is still breath in my lungs, and from which there is no escape during my earthly existence.

Stuck Up Ticker Tape

The growth of this business is of great monument to the stock exchange, for it is through the instant dissemination of the quotations made on its floor that the active and continuous interest in the markets is sustained.
—Horace L. Hotchkiss, 1867

Stock ticker confetti once snowed heavily upon the Canyon of Heroes. Now the simulacrum of the stock market appears everywhere. I watch it proclaim wealth in distant galaxies, anything touched there turning more precious than the platinum of my planet. The ticker tape flickers past the white-haired man waiting for the #80, his tweed jacket molting like a bird’s feathers, back pocket worn where his wallet flattens against the bench; past the teenager pushing her baby girl, whose piggy bank shuns pennies, who in a flash will be a preteen with breast buds and oily skin. Giddy ribbons swirl above my commute, the highway that severs my thirsty valley on the way to work. Coded symbols brag of riches, cry big losses I don’t feel. I punch in early, know I’ll clock out late.

Cathryn Shea’s poetry is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Dirty Chai, Gargoyle, Gravel, Main Street Rag, Permafrost, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Snap Bean, is by CC.Marimbo (2014, Berkeley). Cathryn is in the 2012 anthology “Open to Interpretation: Intimate Landscape.” She is a past editor and adviser for Marin Poetry Center Anthology and is the author of dozens of software and database manuals (sometimes confused with creative non-fiction). Cathryn lives in Fairfax, CA and spends part of each day watching over a covey of California quail. See