Church Universal and Triumphant

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.