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.