Holocaust

The boys in their khaki uniforms
continued to draw swastikas
in the margins of their notebooks
even against our teachers’ dictates.

When my grandfather,
born a Jew,
showed me a picture
of G.I.’s pointing pistols
at each other
in front of a Nazi flag,
my third grade mind
could only draw
one conclusion.

Fascinated by stories in our books
of lampshades stretched
from human skin,
I raised my hand in catechism
at Holy Name of Jesus
and told Ms. Kibodeaux,

“My grandpa was a Nazi.”

“Your grandfather’s going to Hell,”
she said to me,
eager to sort the damned
from the saved,

burning us whole.

God’s Playground

My God
doesn’t like you.
He says
suicide bombs
are for sissies,
and even if He were
one of those virgins
you guys are
always talking about,
He wouldn’t screw you,
no sir.

You should get
a nicer God,
one who loves
Jews and Christians
and Muslims alike
even though
(I agree)
some of the Christians
don’t deserve it.

You know the ones –
they put bumper stickers
on their rusty cars
that say
“My boss is a Jewish carpenter.”
You’d think
Jesus would give them a raise,
that Shylock,
just to see
His bumper stickers
on better cars.

But anyway,
why not get a God
who doesn’t like to see
His kids blown up,

a God
who would talk you out of it.

Breakup

I’m sorry, God,
but things just aren’t
working out between us.

In the beginning
it was all light
and flowers
and stargazing
and hanging out together
on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And it was good.
But you’ve changed.
Do this, don’t do that,
worship Me.

“You shall have
no other gods before me.”
Ok, I said, we can be exclusive.

And, sure, I’ve coveted my neighbor,
but I’ve been faithful to you.
Still, you’re always watching me,
asking if there’s anything
I’d like to confess.

So I’m breaking up with you.
I’d like to date other gods.

Let’s just be friends.

Bienville

(nominated from Poets.org to go to the September 2007 IBPC)

It is my job
to distill the news
and e-mail it to my dad
who gets half an hour
twice a day
on the Internet
at the Alexandria library
to see if his house
has taken on water

there is a lot I read
but don’t send

a woman floating
her dead husband to the hospital
on an unhinged door

the dogs
the rescue workers describe
frying in the power lines

people trying
to break into Children’s Hospital
as if there weren’t enough
sadness there
for just one place

but between us
there is that one house
on Ridgeway Drive
that hasn’t taken water

and Great-Aunt Nialta
who expects a phone call

to make sure
you got home safe.

The Perfection of the Word

“In the beginning was the Word. . .”
— John 1:1

I used to lie on my bed
and browse the great
catalog of creation,

the dictionary.

Who could have known
that a is for apple
could cause so much trouble —
a lexicographer’s nightmare —
that b is for bite
would beget
e is for exile
m is for murder
all the way down to
z is for zoo
(the animals in the garden
having no need
for c is for cage).

One wonders
what was before the word?

I used to stare
at the spaces between letters
until the words became
without meaning
without form
and void

repeated them
until the sounds came
like speaking in tongues

and then let them
drift back into being,
understanding

watched
as the word again
became flesh.

Sometimes

Sometimes
you’re all day
alone
trying to rearrange
a half-finished house
and you sit
by the dryer
and cry

because it isn’t
the life you wanted

and you wait for him
so you can say you’re
pissed

then he does something
sweet
or funny

and you can’t.

The Womaning

(Originally published in Cahoots Magazine)

Go down
into the cavern
mark your handprint
red
upon the walls
and your cheeks
you are woman
and this is
the calling of power

drum up the dead
unbury your stillborns
from this earth and
rebirth them

the moon is round
and you too

are ready.

Grace

(Originally published in Cahoots Magazine)

In the name of
the Celery
the Onion
and the Holy Bell Pepper,
Amen.
Dig in.

My God is love
like an Italian mother
eat, eat
it’s good for you.

My God is not white
not usually
but chocolate brown
like a good roux
yellow
like a sweet onion
red
like cayenne
pink like shrimp.

She doesn’t care
if you worship
other gods
but please, honey,
no Twinkies
they’ll spoil your dinner
and what do they
put in those things
anyway?

This is my God.

This is my body.
Take, eat.