Audio: Read by the author.
Every child, probably, dreams she’s ended
the world without meaning to. First guilt
then its long, sugared spell.
When my sister, older and Bible-trained
by a school that thought her heathen
whispered snakes had legs until God
took them away, I flinched—
saw the sleek belly, then the body dragging
in dust. The secret told in a grocery
store parking lot, our parents
loading bags into the car. A small gift—fear
is passed on and nearly nobody
notices. There was no religion in our house.
For years I thought it was a hole, a gap
in the woodwork I needed to fill
and tested my goodness kneeling
in backyard dirt, murmuring prayers
from scraps of paper. When I outgrew God
I had other fears to fill me. The mind
gets crowded, stuffed, like honeycomb—
each new cell glistening and gold.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.