from the desert, once a week

When God was still good, I was seven.

I drew my name on the manila sides of my bible and thought about the boy I liked who sat a few rows behind me. Nothing ever sunk in—not the devil, not the disciples, not the crosses or the ways I was supposed to be a better child.

When God was still good, I was seven, and everything to happen to me. I still thought saying no was a sin. I guess that sunk in.

When God was still good, I was seven and I thought he must live in the Bingo Hall basement of my church and smoke cigarette after cigarette after cigarette. And God cared what I did, not what was done to me.

I stole the idea of God from you and your piano this morning. I watched your hands move like some people’s idea of God and in that same moment you said something about never getting the chords right. All I’d been thinking was, It sounds like praying. Later on I watched a desert chipmunk circle your hose for a drop of water with no luck. No, I won’t make that metaphor any more than I already have.

Does God whistle?

Does God sing?

If he did, he’d come to me now, half-naked in a bed all white, still bleeding from myself, the space next to each of my eyes pleading for some forgiveness, for some grace, but I don’t pray. I won’t pray. God can’t listen. God doesn’t sing.

If I remember my favorite part of the Bible, it was that Jesus liked walking. If I remember when God was good, I can forget anything. If I let you back out enough to break part of my chest, that means you were in it.

If I look at the Juniper bushes out of the corner of my eye, it looks like someone about to come visit. If I count rotations of the ceiling fan from sadness, I have been a witness. If I wish on meteors, it means I still believe in something. If no one is around to listen, I sing.

When I grew up, I became my own holy thing.

writer & former librarian • A LIGHT forthcoming from Chicago Review Press 2022 •

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