Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Invitation to Discipleship
A do-it-all deacon cuts the weeds
from the stone steps of the church,
reshuffles the gravel parking lot.
We don’t put pictures on the programs
anymore. White Jesus is a lie,
and we can’t lie in church.
Our poor is apparent, the diluted
shame of a communal shower.
We can’t care anymore.
We unholy. Ghost powered.
God was a good idea at the time.
Those hot eyes glaring at every sickbed
blink, and we get glad about it.
My cousin used to sang about it.
Her mama could sang too and did
so much while heaped with child
sung it loose one Sunday. Slid
into the world crying in tune. It is.
It is. It is. I like that part. Yes, lord.
One usher can’t watch all the doors.
Somebody touched the hem of our
dirty-foot savior. Somebody believed
that this was enough to save them.
Somebody set the pew on fire,
put it out with the pastor’s drinking water.
He was more upset about the shattered pitcher
than the wooden pew singed in ash and fluttered
swears—god damn it. He never set the church
on fire, but now it moves. Now it moves us.
Now it floats back to us
on Monday. And Tuesday. And Friday
when it’s dark and black and lofty.
• • •
Took care of the paraplegic janitor
with the half-dozen remotes
no children to change the channel
when the batteries die in all six.
Kept him and his nurse company
when both were prune-fingered
and uncertain about the end.
Took that rich old white lady
to the store to buy groceries
for her family of no-shows
and exotic birds. Plucked the seedless
grapes from their nerve endings when
her fingers wouldn’t stop shaking.
Took care of the baggy skinned scholar
with the shrine of degrees and a vacuum cleaner
that survived the Great Depression. Mopped
the linoleum floors that had only felt
the bare arches of his uncallused feet
before the rubber soles of the EMTs.
Took care of the has-been
when the doctor found a tumor
hiding in the dark alley behind his eyes.
Brushed his hair-triggers. Weathered
the piss poor decisions
staining the dirty laundry aired to
the bowed heads of the congregation.
• • •
A long time ago
A group of old white men
Sat in a wopped circle just like this
In weird worship
Trying to determine
Who or what or when God is
And the plain sea stood
To swallow them up
Just before they discovered
The answers neatly folded
In their back pockets
The solutions are not bottled
But they are in the waves
Born in the pitch of womb
Darkness taught me first
Told me I was made of atoms
I believed this
Told me those atoms were round and hot
I believed this too
Until I saw one ’tween a beam of light
Cloud-like and swirlin
I’m all smoke and momentum
Flung soot from stone uprisings
Ain been looked at closely enough
I’m a dying tree swaddled in string-lights
Death never glows like this
Box kite caught in my wilting fingers
A mean spirited old man
Let the kite-less lightless kids tell it
Yo gahd too small
He a aching machine
Shipping loot crates fulla pearls and ash
He the borrowed and unreturned
Revolver snuck into the church
The neatly torn page from Leviticus
A wine that opens ya up
But won’t shutcha back
He hot in da stomach
Leaps out da thoat
Steams on the pavement
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.
Protests in China are shining a light not only on the country’s draconian population management but restrictions on workers everywhere.
Support us with a donation this giving season.