Poetry / Sarah Colón
:: Church Universal and Triumphant ::
We cut ties with worldly things, packed up the Datsun, and drove to Montana. We built a tiny altar in the closet, meditated on the I AM Presence, received blessings from Guru Ma, and bathed our bodies in light. Educated adults saw fairies in old photographs. We eschewed chocolate for spiritual purity, drank bancha tea for clarity, and put on our tubes of light every morning before a breakfast of brown rice and miso soup. We wore colors of the ethereal plane, earrings smaller than dimes. We crossed our arms when we heard rock music and did Violet Flame to cleanse our transgressions. We built bomb shelters in the dead of winter, canned and vacuum-packed food for seven years, prioritized and stored our belongings. We descended long cold ladders into the underground. We strapped ourselves to the bunks in preparation for the blast. We re-entered the world, unharmed.
From the writer
:: Account ::
I grew up in a New Age religion that most people would call a cult. I hesitate to use the word “cult” because this was the word I heard most often used against us. I associate it with the malicious name-calling that contributed to escalating tensions and even acts of violence—locals shooting at a school bus or a member of the community having a cross burned in his yard. We lived in fear of the hostility that surrounded us, that events like the bombing of the Rajneeshpuram hotel or the FBI siege of Waco might also happen to us.
This is not to say that the community itself was a wholesome environment. We were tasked with strict, oppressive regulations on our diets, daily routines, and clothing. I spent most of third grade preparing for the end of the world, fully believing that my father and half-sisters, who weren’t members of the community, were going to die. When I left at age 14, I was mentally in tatters. I struggled for years with depression, self-harm, and hatred.
But the stories of our childhoods are neither wholly gleaming nor entirely terrible. There is a magic to the Rocky Mountains that I’ve never found anywhere else, and my childhood was also filled with moments of pure delight. I found my love of literature and poetry there through the kind nurturing of teachers who cared.
Here I’ve tried to explore the duality of that experience, to express the way that rage and joy can exist simultaneously for me in memory. These poems are part of my work in progress, which I’ve tentatively entitled Cultgirl as a way of reclaiming the word, celebrating an aspect of myself which, while terrible, also shaped me.
Sarah Colón is a poet and educator from the American West who spent most of her childhood in Montana as a member of a religious cult that was preparing for impending nuclear disaster. A mother of four, she has worked in the food service and childcare industries while freelancing as an editor and copywriter. She currently teaches high school and lives with her partner and their blended family of six children in Largo, Florida. Previous publications include The Examined Life Journal and Flash Fiction.