Confessions of a Nun

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The speaker is Sister Jacques-Marie, née Monique Bourgeois

Yes, I loved Matisse. He made it for me, you know, this church of glass and fire. Now when the sun rolls rectangles on floors

through windows painted yellow, I remember the yellow broom we stumbled through each morning when we climbed this hill, and how he stirred

to greens in scrub weeds, whites in the anemones, and blues in the sliver of sea beyond rock terraces. He owned his loves. His Vence. I, his Monique.

Nurse. Disciple. Rose. But who was I? Harsh words we had, a few. I had to leave for me, myself, my holy vows.

If I belonged to anything, it was (how could I tell him?), someone larger. Il faut y avoir plus, there must be more.

Later, he aged, arthritic, waiting for the angel to wound him. None appeared, but when my sisters called for a new chapel,

I drew a priest he painted on a wall while belted to his chair. I tied a brush to a long twig, strapped it to his arm,

and watched him paint anger in daring strokes: an outsized poppy, the Virgin and child, a monk. Rage for lost years, for few to come.

(Why does he think his work is never finished?) And yet he scorned — what is it? — pitié. Not for him. He told me once, in wartime,

his daughter captured, tortured for her fight in the Maquis, he wept at home, alone — all the while painting joy in reds and violets.

Now in this blue-green-yellow chapel, seeing the late day sunlight on the sketches of planetree, priestly vestments, and an altar

the color of risen bread, I know at last that just as he held my vows in his great hands, he, godless, will work it out with God.