Symptoms of Faithlessness



I ran from the sermon screaming

or I walked up the aisle

each of the parishioners’ eyes falling upon me—

the pastor paused—

I punched his face—I dug my nails

into my arms to chase away these thoughts and tried to breathe

under the weight

like stones piled on my sternum.


The pastor resumed, explaining that King Saul

wasn’t crazy. An evil spirit

sent by the Lord descended upon him for

waiting only seven days, as asked, and for showing mercy.


At brunch, an old family friend said

Mental illness is a symptom of faithlessness.

If you want to be sane, better get yourself saved.

I understood my affliction: possession.

I needed to pray each night,

to repent, to read the Bible,

to read that before Moses returned to the Nile,

the Lord had said I will harden Pharaoh’s heart,

so he will not let the people go.

The Lord had promised the death of the first born.


The compulsion to run out of church mid-service

was not a warning                   but a command.




In the decade since, I’ve learned doubt,

I’ve learned to recognize the symptoms

of a panic attack.

The flesh remembered

what I tried to forget.


After Sunday school, a girl tackled me as I left the bathroom.

At seven I couldn’t fight off a middle-school attacker.

Pinned to the ground,

my hand shoved against my nose.

She yelled,

It smells like shit!

Wash your hands!


It didn’t matter what I said

about my hygiene, she knew I was unclean.


The whole Sunday school class—faces like angels—laughed.


Jennifer Lynn Krohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she currently lives with her husband. She earned her MFA from the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English at Central New Mexico Community College. Jennifer is a member of the Dirt City Writers. She has published work in Necessary Fiction, Connotation Press, In the Garden of the Crow, Yellow Chair Review, and Gingerbread House Literary Magazine among others.