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Poetry

Either I’m praying, or I’m holding my hand with my hand.

I suppose both are small beggings for favor, simply directed
at different thrones. Across the congregation, I’m known as
your son even before God’s—and what a pregnant admission
that is; your voice, among the choir, is exalted, anointed a
favorite by pastor and flock. Just as you sing of the Lord,
you order my steps, and I follow, walking the straight and
narrow, falling between stern lines you’ve drawn though my
body curves as any other boy’s would when inert on sidewalk,
skirted by chalk held in a gloved hand. Shudder to think of all
that wasted labor, of a child lost like that, though there is grace
in knowing, once, I was as small as a silver bullet in your belly,
but a kind, hopefully, filling a hole in you, warmly, without pain.
This was a time before I had a name, whether first or last, meaning
I couldn’t yet have a father to know, to take after or take up for or
the place of when something heavy needs to be lifted in this house
of two stories: hers and his. In the beginning, of course, I was yours
completely, solely, some saccharine in the fabric of your carbonating
blood. Because gospel, by definition, requires there be good news,
because I was born from touch until told otherwise, because touch
can mean either life or death depending on where and how deep
or hard, between us, let’s agree you were virgin then and virgin
now, four kids later, whatever tenderness there was between
you and him the ghost of a ghost of a ghost, what I am, what
we four are in that story: higher beings, wounds and all—

holes in our hands, but still able to hold the whole world.

 


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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