The preacher stands in the pulpit of the dark
arched church and reads from the King James Bible,
but she stops before she reaches the passage.
And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, "No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and [my guest's] concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing.
Judges, Chapter 19
But why? Why does she stop reading?
Must we forget this history, erase the memories?
If we speak clearly of the virgin daughter offered up,
of the concubines cast off, will the exposed
plutonium of the memory sicken our bones?
A baby girl has unfurled like a flower
inside my womb. What shall I tell her?
That I remember the veteran talking
of the Cambodian women whose breasts
were as beautiful as the flesh of young melons?
They cost so little there, he said. That I remember
the girls surrounded by a group of basketball players
who taunted them, pulled their clothes off, left them
in the field naked. The judge who raped the young
woman, said she teased him with her body. Remember
the rapes in Iraq, inherited from the master in Judges.
The plunders and peeks and pressured pecks, the acts
of generals and presidents and priests, inherited
from the gods of our fathers. A raft of sunshine
buoys up the body of Jesus hung behind the pulpit,
and I am suddenly in our church of knotty pine, hand-
built by men so long ago, in our country church,
pale pine shined by the love of a god and angels,
the love of aunts and uncles. I remember
the stories: Eve made from her husband’s body, Lot’s wife
turned to salt, wives should submit in everything
to their husbands, how we were given to know
that woman was made for man. Remember
Sunday afternoons how the sun beat down
on Sunday ballgames, summer picnics, on the uncle
who slid his fingers beneath our shirts, how later
the cool air licked our tender bodies, fresh from baths,
when the towels were whipped away by other uncles.
Memory piles on memory, compressed in a buried core.
If we remember, if we speak of it, will anger tear open
flesh, will we begin to see only pulsing towers, exploding tops,
popping hot little bombs under the sheets, deceptive missiles,
gluttonous missiles. When we see, will we become fists?
If we let the plutonium core of our memories surface,
will we become the bomb itself? Fire cleans forest and field,
makes a fertile world where flowers can unfurl. If
we expose the core to oxygen, will it burn the dross,
leave us clean and empty? Perhaps this
is where we look to a different god for salvation.
Anger buried in our bodies seals us alone. Let us
open ourselves, walk through the fire, for
god cannot live as a broken bit shut inside us.
We must look in the interstices, in the cracks,
in the small narrow spaces between us.
God needs mingling. God is the medium,
the placenta where we exchange heat, god is
the skin surrounding the egg
the slippery inside of a cheek
the film found on frothing water
the slick surface of the tongue
We must know god with our bodies,
in the cell working its chemical magic,
in the retina that recognizes light,
in the breath that transpires
between and among us,
through the porous skin,
in the breast and the bone
and the gristle given gladly
to one another.
I walk back out through the grand doors
of this dark arched church into Sunday
sun shining on multiple flowers.
give my daughter
a place of touching, joining.
I will give
a different kind of god.
Waiting For Test Results
Last time, I lost my mind.
I found it sitting in a pine tree outside
my bedroom. It took a long time
to call it back inside.
It’s not so tough this time.
I’m not so scared of dying
The magnolia is loaded with purple hands,
They would make beautiful urns.
There are days I long to live
inside a magnolia blossom.
I’m not going to lose my mind this time.
Reality is in constant motion.
I didn’t know that before.