Kathy Fagan: The Rule of Three

“One of the first I learned was the trinity, three persons in one
God: father, son, and holy spirit, née ghost. Then I started writing
JMJ on all my homework and tests, for good luck, but also because

My ballpoint’s blue ink looked pretty beside the paper’s purple
Ink, like the inside of a clamshell when I teared up or squinted
From the smell. Sometimes the sheets were wet and curled like

Petals reeking of gin, which is why it was called spirit duplication,
After the nonflammable alcohol used in the process. Jesus, Mary,
And Joseph, is what the three initials meant. I’d draw a cross from

The descending caret of the M and think of Mary, the mother,
And of the other Mary, not, weeping at the limp feet of the crucified
Jesus. Where was Joseph, I wondered, but never asked. We seemed

To pity him a little, for reasons I couldn’t name, like my father,
Who was both my father and a son, and soon to be the son of
His father’s ghost. When my grandmother was dying, she asked

Her only child, my mother, to go with her. Mom waited decades
To obey, but she finally went. Together in one grave now, they are
Two Marys, maybe with the Jesus of their most solitary prayers,

Petals littering their one stone’s four corners. Being motherless,
Like being childless, is both good and bad, I think,
And it is a third thing, too, that is neither of these.”

—Kathy Fagan.