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 I still thought saying no was a sin.

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, shouting “Bingo!” before anyone else could.

I stole my memory of God from you and your piano this morning, watching your hands move like some people’s idea of him. You said something about never getting the chords right and all I’d been thinking was, It sounds like praying. I went outside and watched a desert mouse circle your hose for a drop of water with no luck, no drip for him— I won’t make that metaphor any more than we already have, you and me. You start your whistling from inside the house and I come in.

Does God whistle?

Does God sing?

If I remember my favorite part of the Bible, it was that Jesus liked walking and seeing things. If I remember when God was good, I can forget everything that’s happening now. If I let you you break part of my chest open, that means I finally let someone in.

If I catch a creosote bushes out of the corner of my eye, it looks like an apparition. If I count rotations of the ceiling fan until I am no longer sad, I count that as a miracle. If you’re not around to listen, I sing. When I grew up I became my own holy thing.

OVERDUE: Recknoning with the Public Library forthcoming from Chicago Review Press March 22, 2022 • amandaoliver.com