Church of the Latter Day Sane

Church of the Latter Day Sane

WO Church of Latter Day Sane Art

By Krista Genevieve Farris

It’s just an old white stucco-covered house on North Loudoun Street, greying and overcrowded. There’s no lawn, just an endless pad of cement from street to a cinderblock porch that’s been painted forest green. I see it every day.That’s my view.

The paint can’t mask the drab. It makes me mad.

When our crepe myrtles bloom, purple blossoms dress the view. And I have to position myself just right to see that ugly porch with the mismatched chairs and random residents chewing their nails and nodding to no one.

In spring, the buds bulge.

I peek my head outside to get the mail. It’s always ads and bank statements
these days—nothing personal. And a man in an alb and a tasseled cincture genuflects, kneels down on that hard porch.

Blesses me—

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Raises a chalice,

a real churchy chalice.

I duck my head and hold-up two fingers “Peace” then double-lock my door.


Summer comes, a hazy blur obscured by ivies, humidity and pollution.  No glorious view of the Blue Ridge.  Just days spent on the porch with my son, his lemonade stand, biting insects and the dander of stray cats that makes me itch and sneeze and leaves me cranky.

The priest guy wants a cup of lemonade, opens our iron gate and hands my 6-year-old 10 bucks.

“Keep the change,” he suggests.

I think he can’t or shouldn’t spare the change.  I don’t want it.

“No,” I say.
My son takes it.

The man sits down.  Dry white flakes fall from the wicker and settle under the chair.  He rambles about God and grad school days and then talks incoherently about God some more.  He flits and drones and eventually leaves.

I tell my son there are too many mosquitoes on the porch the next time he wants to sell lemonade. We wait out the doldrums indoors.  I say I’m scared of West Nile and for some reason he believes me.


Thanksgiving – the leaves rain from the crepe myrtle and cushion our walk. The guy’s cleric robe is grey at the hem from his constant pacing on the treeless sidewalk across the street.  Back and forth and back again – barefoot- he sucks an endless cigarette smoking out one last stand of mosquitos.  He is bald.

Someone yells something indiscernible from a car window.

He screams, “Don’t fuckin’ talk about Jesus fucking Christ like that.”

I slide on the hem of my yoga pants while racing to my window to see.

A woman walking by on the sidewalk asks him

“You O.K.?”

His face is soft and pink.  He smiles a gentle closed-mouth smile,

“Why do you ask?”

He takes a drag off his cigarette nub.  Leaves it between his lips, clasps his hands behind his back, bows his head, turns away and paces.


I’m thankful.

I’m warm




Cigarette smoke hangs over that damn porch across the street like a funky cloud of incense by mid-December.  A barefoot woman with a buzz cut chain smokes in union with him.  I don’t care for her. I really don’t like her being there adding to the haze.

Each Tuesday afternoon at two, after his social worker leaves and the Christian radio station stops preaching on his old boom box and starts playing music, he starts mass.

Every Tuesday he rises from his chair, takes his chalice and walks a few steps away from the porch.  Then he walks back, sits down and lights two cigarettes.  He hands one to the woman.  The two of them sit and smoke- inhaling and exhaling- synchronized for a couple of hours. This goes on for days – this ritual.

Then, she starts rising with him and holds a cup through each mass, following behind him.  She kneels in front of him at the porch and offers the cup.

She trades her jeans for a long dress and the processional lengthens.  Her buzz cut hair is now completely shorn. She’s bald like him.

They cross the street toward me.

I wonder if they can feel my eyes through the window pane.

My son asks me what I’m doing. I say I’m just drinking a cup of tea and tell him to go color in a book.

The next week they come even closer to my home during their processional. They cross the street to the sidewalk right in front of my house, then veer north until they land on the porch of the abandoned house next door to mine. They turn east, kneel together to pray.

I’m a little pissed by the audacity- the trespass.

I’m sure they feel me.  I’ve been staring too long, frozen in my turret window.

I shouldn’t or should look away? I look down.

I see the frayed hem on his robe.  I feel dirty.

My husband asks me what I did today.

Nothing, I say, nothing. Why can’t I say?


It’s a New Year, the beginning of the end of the end of the beginning, and he’s wearing black pants and a black leather jacket and she’s wearing a sweater and a short skirt, her hair is growing, and they’re walking arm-in-arm on the south end of town.   I’m in my minivan waiting for them to move it along at a crosswalk- no chalice at that cross. “Move,  fucking move,” I mutter.

“What Mommy?” says a little voice behind me.

Oh God, did I say that out loud?


Leap day he sits beside her empty chair.

The plastic seat cracked in the cold.

He’s in jeans

robeless, shoeless, sockless, shirtless


He looks toward my house.

I know he sees me

he feels me

sitting at the windows.


A crisp draft breathes at me from under a sill.

Snow dusts the tops of his feet.  He rises,

walks past my house

finally out of my sight.


When I go to meet my son at his bus stop, a neighbor asks if I know anything about a guy dressed like a priest. I shrug. She says the man paused to pace at this school bus stop at the corner of West Avenue and “what’s up with these creeps anyway? Has the whole world lost its mind?”  So she called the police, who followed his footprints down the sidewalk to our alley, into a snow-covered shed.


The man sat in the corner

with some feral cats and

rose peacefully when

they said “come.”

The silence he left is mine

to hear, the empty porch,

my desolation –

his footprints – an order

to witness this gentrification

I think- if it has a pretty,

rational name,  I will be safe from

this purgatory, predatory,

paranoid neighborhood watch.


Krista Genevieve Farris likes the liminality offered by a prolonged sit at a window.  She lives in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband and three sons. Krista has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Change from Indiana University and a BA in English and Anthropology from Albion College. Her recent writing can be found on the Brain,Mother blog, Gravel, Literary Mama, Cactus Heart, The Rain, Party and Disaster Society, The Literary Bohemian, The Screech Owl and elsewhere. Please visit her writer’s website –


Quietly Bleeding: One Mother’s Struggle to Define Violence, Hazing and Bullying

Quietly Bleeding: One Mother’s Struggle to Define Violence, Hazing and Bullying

By Krista Genevieve Farris


There’s a fine line between “peer pressure for play” and negative peer pressure. Is it bullying? Is it a gateway to violence? To hazing?


It’s a punch in the gut that keeps on bleeding, a silent fight with a growing bruise, a game that has already caused trauma and left collateral damage. Your son tells you kids are “bodying” each other in the locker room. And while you’re not sure what “bodying” is, and you know that’s the next question you hope he’ll answer after you gather yourself enough to ask it, you are certain it isn’t something good.

What you do know, because he led with the detail, telling it with a dramatic shake of his head, is that one of the boys ended up with a bloody nose after the bout of “bodying.” His second swing, he adds breathlessly—you’re not allowed to tell anyone. If you tell, he’s certain (and you are too) that there will be retaliation. A good offense is as strong as its defense that’s the lesson he’s learned on the court. Defense is silence beyond this kitchen. But, this isn’t a basketball court, you say. This type of defense won’t stand up in a court of law or to our conscience—a silent defense is internal bleeding.

“What is bodying?” You hope he answers. But, already he’s panicking, the damage has been done—”Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell my coach. Please don’t call the parents. Promise you won’t tell. Dammit. Promise.”  He’s bellowing now—slamming his fists a room away on the cluttered dining room table. You’re yelling back, still in the kitchen doorway “WHAT IS IT? What exactly is ‘bodying’?”

He says “bodying” is punching and being punched below the head—in the stomach, the ribs, etc. Anywhere that won’t show. The kids were having fun, MOM, they were just having fun. One just screwed up and hit a nose. The bleeding stopped easily, he says, or so he thinks. Tangibly, that’s what he saw.

You beg to differ on every count. The blood is still flowing. Your words drown in his panic. He doesn’t know he sounds like a man. You feel the bass of his voice in your chest. He doesn’t realize his strength—of voice, body or spirit. None of these teen boys know their strength. They don’t get that they can bring you to your knees by simply growing. Every day these young men measure their strength against each other—competing, and comparing—Instagramming photos of their facial hair and biceps, staging contests on fields and over sandwiches at lunch.

Your son knows it was wrong, that it wasn’t just boys horsing around in a pre-game game before taking to the court. You’re not perfect, nor is he. He’s made mistakes, likely thrown a punch in anger that didn’t hit. And maybe you’ve made calls that didn’t need to be made or waved a finger in an innocent face.

But, this thing has a name. And, it’s not a simple game. That’s why he’s talking. It scares him—and you. You know this, even though you’re not saying it. You’re walking on eggshells now, just to keep him talking. You and your son, you’re both holding and being held hostage by this “game” and the negotiations are touchy. You’re on tip-toe, but you’re still in the ring. So, it’s still OK for now. He’s saying less, but hasn’t left.

You remember when a guy named Frankie yanked you up from your seat at the junior high cafeteria table by pulling your long hair. You remember hurdling hedges and taking secret cut-throughs in your neighbors’ yards when you and your friend Alisha fled Frankie’s mean gal pals, the ones wielding fists and pocket knives. Both Frankie and Alisha died young, neither due to violence. And, you are still alive. So, really, is any of this stuff life and death?

The mamma in you knows Florida A&M University band member Robert Champion died recently after a hazing incident, a beating on a bus. You’ve heard the news reports on the radio while scrubbing the bathtub and stirring soup. You went to college. You know about hazing. Group think, hazing, bullying—one person’s game or joke can lead to another person’s violent misery. Observation and silence can mean complicity.

There’s a fine line between “peer pressure for play” and negative peer pressure. Is it bullying? Is it a gateway to violence? To hazing?

Your son is begging you not to tell. You make him promise, “swear on your life you will not participate.” He says he won’t. But, you know the bleeding has begun. You fear he will be punched in the gut repeatedly with real fists or metaphorically with scapegoating. The question is not if. It is by whom? It is when?

You’ve always tried to protect him and can still imagine when his hand used to fit in yours, when he used to grasp your pinkie or reach for a hug after you snapped him into his car seat. No, you haven’t picked him up every single time he’s fallen. But, you’ve done your best to guide him. He needs his independence. You’ve done your best.

This single “bodying” incident has left bruises all around its victims—individual, team, familial, school, community—because bleeding still occurs when kept under the skin. There’s no such thing as “under wraps” when it comes to the ramifications of violence. Telling could result in punches. Not telling could render the same—another round of damaging pummels; blows, blows that could hurt the liver, blows that break a rib that punctures a lung, a single blow that sweeps him off his feet so he knocks his head, gets up and concusses later.

Or, just as bad, a blow he throws in defense that hurts another. You know he’s strong. You know that’s a possibility—that he would be sucked in to “bodying” and swing a lethal fist. Or that he would resist the taunts and dares and be unable to control his own ire. You know this could happen, because as strong as we are, we all react to these hits, these blows.

You realize you should tell.

You are an adult. You are a parent. Is this when you are taunted? When your strength is tested? You have been scared just writing this down. Is this where true daring occurs? Is this when you step up and take one for the team? Or are you breaking from the team? Is this when you assume the risk of betraying your son? Or is the betrayal in remaining silent about insidious threats? Referees wear black and white, not shades of grey. Whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not, there might be a right answer in response to the “game.” You lift up your phone and wonder. Your aching gut hopes, just this once, another parent beat you to the punch.

Krista Genevieve Farris has the privilege of bouncing her rough drafts off her husband and three sons from the comfort of her dining room table in Winchester, Virginia. In addition to Brain,Child, her recent essays, stories, and poems can be found in Literary Mama, Right Hand Pointing, Gravel, The Literary Bohemian, The Rain, Party and Disaster Society, Screech Owl, Tribeca Poetry Review and elsewhere. Please check out her author’s webpage at

Die Job

Die Job

By Krista Genevieve Farris


There was a mother bear incident, her blaming my child for biting her son; then accusations that I’m too soft on my kids, incompetent as a mom. 


I noticed the black of her hair turned blue at her scalp and wondered how much of that was intentional. I don’t know much about these things, whether it’s staged, a mistake, or something she hasn’t yet noticed. I like her a lot, so I don’t say anything and understand I’ll probably get it in time. I hope she comes around because I’ve missed her.

She’s big eyed and skinny, simultaneously genuine and put on. She’s not trying to look young. And she doesn’t. But, she doesn’t look old either. She just looks like her. And I love that. I’m caught off guard by her candor when I asked her that question about her life and thought she’d dodge it like a squirrel on a leaf slick sidewalk. I’m anxious and waiting for her to ask me a question. Is she nervous? Is she curious? But I can’t remember if she’s a question asker. I don’t think she is. I don’t recall. Is it up to me to insert myself? To ask about the blue, blue roots?

I realize it’s not my place. Not yet. And doubt if it ever will be. I grieved like someone died when we had our falling out. Not like she died, but like I did. And, indeed, a part of me that believed in friendship, in non-sanguine sisterhood died a sudden death in those few weeks when our relationship decayed.

There was a mother bear incident, her blaming my child for biting her son; then accusations that I’m too soft on my kids, incompetent as a mom. Then an answering machine apology that I missed while my bruised ego was busy sliding a tidbit of criticism or two into our unfriendly circle of friends who loitered like piranha around us waiting to chomp, to tear us down to floating bone flotsam. It was easy and quick, too facile, to cut out someone I knew so well. Every weakness I knew would destroy her; I shared, planting an idea here, asking a leading question there. She threw a few big parties and left me off her list. We made a good demolition team.

Here I sit 10 years later, having climbed the quiet stairs to her studio. It’s just me and her again. Our kids are all in school. Her nails that were crusted with baby blue frosting when she made the cake for my baby shower are short and clean. Her hands that held my sons hours after they were born look a little more worn, but nimble. Oh, our children have grown so much. But us?

I marvel at her art on paper. It’s framed on the walls, nude still shots of herself taken by herself—flying over fences, jumping off bridges, flipping in air—perfectly self-timed. I marvel at her. She is a kinetic sculpture as she sits here almost still. Her skin fidgits on its own; it can’t contain her liveliness When she bends over to scratch her ankle, just above her Converse, just below her the roll of her jeans, I fantasize for a second she wants me to know, wants me to not have to ask if those blue roots are intentional, a tribute, a yen.

She hugs me and says she’s glad I came by. And that she’s moving in three weeks, give or take. She shows me a picture of the island beach, the crystal waters where she’ll dive. And I know the yearning is mine. Her roots are ceylon sapphire, mine an unseen blue.

Krista Genevieve Farris lives in Winchester, Virginia with her husband and three sons. Her recent work has appeared in Right Hand Pointing, Cactus Heart, Tribeca Poetry Review, Literary Mama, The Literary Bohemian, The Piedmont Virginian, The Rain, Party and Disaster Society and elsewhere.