Losing god

[image description: two dark curtains closed except for a gap near the top where sunlight streams in.]

Knob turned
and door pushed open,
asleep until newly spoken to
and unable now to stop my own
into what is not entirely yet clear.

Unable not to shake
the hand-me-down scapegoat god,
the one we’re supposed to wait on
to make things better
or end it all

that absolves of collective work for change,
keeps distracted, focused on individual charity
that stokes self-righteousness,
keeps tight control,
as if parceling out crumbs to “worthy” individuals
will set things right.

Sliver of sunlight piercing curtain gap,
tired of being confined in this dark room,
this dark tomb,
reusing words
that belong to other people,
when what my soul longs for
is the voice that speaks within,
“There is another way, walk in it.”

Mundane Beauty

[Image Description: close-up of bright yellow clusters of flowers growing in a patch of Ragwort plants]

Eye catches steam
unfurling from my coffee mug
in morning light, iridescent,
driving kids to school
no time to transfer
to a travel mug
as would be sensible
to trap coffee and vapor inside,
which would have prevented delicate tendrils
capturing daybreak’s glow
and that millisecond of my attention.

How much mundane exquisiteness
we stifle with modern, sensible things.

Flights of fancy tethered
to practicality and function.

Cities once tried to
outdo each other with
buildings more grandly architectured,
more beautifully adorned,
now they order mass-produced
block building plans
and bulldoze wild spaces
to construct squat monstrosities
with no thought to
grandeur or beauty,
human potential
boxed in dull
cubicles inside.

choking off time for leisurely
enjoying the beauty of
coffee mist on a Wednesday morning.

We aren’t supposed to
let the pretty “weeds”
grow where they sprout
in the vegetable garden
just because it’s nice
to be greeted by
their loveliness
among the broccoli
and turnips.

We aren’t supposed to
take the long way home
past fallow fields
brimming with sunny
yellow ragwort
when the more direct route
will get us to the next thing faster.

Yet I long to crucify utility,
beauty for its own sake.

What We Call Things

[Image Description: Close-up of woven fabric, in loose, square weave]

Harms are more ignorable in isolation.
Blame a single culprit,
a bad apple,
a place or person gone astray.

Yet, entire congregations
assembled in old movie theaters,
and pole barns with steeples,
and old-worldly cathedrals
can be convinced to
harm our own children
and call it loving discipline.

Convinced to welcome high-profile abusers
with open arms
and sold-out conferences
and chance after chance to start over
and call it forgiveness.

Convince victims they
they must suffer silently,
not to harm another’s reputation
for what (they are told),
if they’re honest,
they brought on themselves,
allowed to happen,
and call it God’s will.

State violence,
laws unequally enforced,
harm disproportionate,
wielded against those with certain
tone of skin
and this is called justice.

Powerful people
are encouraged to
rig the system,
and cheat for their own gain,
and this is called success.

Those impacted by
generations of exploitation,
are deprived of access to meet even basic needs
and blamed for not utilizing non-existent bootstraps,
and this is called their own laziness.

We convince ourselves
these are individual cases, misfortunes,
or failures.
special circumstances,
not all [fill in the blank].

And ignore our own refusal to call
the horrifying tapestry
woven from a thread
of domination,
what it is.

Control (or Why I’m an Abolitionist)

[Image description: sunlight and shadows making patterns on a wall and part of an interior door.]

Content Warning: Child abuse, religious trauma

Sometimes you think of that day
when you heard a friend’s mom was telling all the parents
she read they should use dowel rods to spank their children
for the really bad sins
and your stomach lurched and tightened
because you already knew how it felt to have a wooden spoon
broken over the back of your bare thigh and
you thought of the bookends you made with your grandpa
using some wood he helped you cut into triangles and two lengths of dowel
and you imagined the weight of those rods
and tried to calculate how much more it would hurt.

And you’d heard some say it takes a village
but you don’t know what to do when the village parents agree to
hit their kids with items they bought casually at the hardware store
and tell them it’s God’s loving discipline
and you know some kids don’t even get I love yous
and at least you do
and you try not to think of it
and also try to be as good as possible
or at least hide anything you think might be
a really bad sin so that maybe, maybe,
you won’t have to find out.

And then the day you see what
the marks of a dowel rod spanking look like
on someone else’s skin
and you lose your shit
and can’t stop sobbing, can barely breathe
because you know in your gut those bruises look nothing like love
and you swear to yourself you will never hit your own child
with a wooden spoon or a wooden rod,
no, you’ll only use your hand
and only not-too-hard swats to the bum
because that is how the indoctrination works
to keep you from imagining there could be another way entirely
and you think a gentler, less-bruising punishment
is the only alternative because to be part of the village
is to perpetuate its violence to maintain control.

And your heart breaks still
knowing that your children were touched
by even your toned-down version of the violence
and you hate that you ever bought into thinking your responsibility
was to control every aspect of your child’s behavior
with swats or isolation or yelling or retaliation
because these things were supposed to be God’s tough love
and keep them from evil.

But you also think of the day
that you realized that “Love is patient, Love is kind”
were not just words for wedding days
but words for every day and every part of life together
and especially your kids and you
and that guiding with patience and kindness
instead of controlling with harm and punishment
could be that other way entirely
that you couldn’t even imagine
when you were just a kid in a village
gathering up pieces of a broken spoon
from the living room floor.


Artist: Thomas, Hank Willis. Title: Stars and Bars. Date: 2015. Medium: decommissioned prison uniforms.
Photographed on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum in October 2020
[Image Description: Artwork by Hank Willis Thomas created from the blue field/stars of a U.S. flag, surrounded on three sides by black and white stiped fabric sourced from prison uniforms, creating a visual like a double United States flag.]

I will no longer pledge allegiance as I was taught,
to a nation, religion, or book,

If pledging to the nation requires I pretend liberty and justice applies to all,
in light of clear evidence contradicting.

If pledging to a book canonized by men insists I make-believe its words prevent sin,
when those words are all too often used for hate instead of love.

If pledging to a Christian flag demands I swear an oath to so-called brotherhood,
united to exclude, traumatize, and injure those it views as other.

If my allegiance to a flag and nation means
I endorse its government killing citizens in the streets,

killing innocents in the middle east,
killing refugees in camps,

then I withdraw the allegiance
I spoke every time I said the words.

If my allegiance to a book means
I must blame the abused for their abuse,

blame victims for their suffering,
blame the struggling for their struggle,

then I withdraw my hand from the cover
of that leather-bound volume and turn away.

If my allegiance to Christianity means
I must advocate harm of the marginalized,

harm of the poor,
harm of our earth,

then I will not be a Christian,
will keep my allegiance to myself,

refusing to make any pledge to idols
that desecrates the still, small voice of the Divine within.


[Image description: sunlight projected onto a blank wall through windowpanes, making the outline of the window, with the corners where two walls and ceiling meet visible.]

waking up to find I’d relegated
wild, creative parts of myself
to the corners of my own existence.

Wasting energy fashioning masks and filters
from the more-acceptable parts
and my perception of other’s needs,
drowning in exhaustion keeping them in place.

Ill-suited, perpetually reconfiguring
in attempt to fit my soul into soulless, man-made structures,
never drawing a full breath,
never fully seen.

Painfully slow,
reclaiming space to be unwieldy,
to forgive my younger self,
befriend my contradictions,

and sit with my own words
long enough to let them change me,
breathing all the way in,
all the way out.

The Woods on Easter Morning

[Image description: Old, faded beech leaves, paper-thin and clinging to a branch, with new leaf buds visible]

Last year’s beech leaves,
green-glow faded,
clinging ghostlike now
where tomorrow’s leaves bud,
waiting to unfurl,

reminding me somehow
of hand-me-down World Books,
once neatly lined on grandfather’s shelf,
faux-leather binding brimming
with yesterday’s meaning for words,

like the second-hand prayers
meant for our forefathers
and the scriptures that gloss over women—
their contributions, their names, their very existence—
to paint a man’s world for us all.

We’re supposed to learn the written words,
acquire the knowledge,
strive for perfection,
become more logical,
stick to the facts as told
with only one side in mind.

But my soul wants to
sit, unhurried,
considering birds
and lilies
and beech leaves,
in all their glorious beauty,
watching them
give it all away.

As lovely as I find translucent
remnants fluttering
in early Spring’s chill-tinged breeze
and the nostalgia
of leafing through old encyclopedias,

I long for Mother Earth’s wisdom,
the understanding hidden within
the trees they cut down
to make those shiny-edged pages.

I need the knowing that emerges
from standing under new leaves
while they are soaking in sunlight,
transforming energy
to create new growth.

I want to give them my exhalation
and drink in theirs until
my marrow
and bones
and lungs
and spirit
take root in
new revelations
and ancient truths, renewed.

I’ve fought to wrestle my life from the grip
of lies and outdated half-truths
that make me less made in God’s Image
for having two X chromosomes
and fought equally hard to
find full truths

and I am weary,
wearing thin and papery,
tired of clinging and
unsure if I believe in resurrection,

but longing
to know what happens
when I give up fighting—
for or against—
and just let go.

Wolf Moon

I wrestle with this God,
into male words,
interpreted as male.

Half of everyone
while everyone pretends
it had to be this way
until everyone believes
it’s always been this way.

Better to teach people to worship a god
made in man’s image
so men in charge can have their way.

Here I am,
not a man
so not like God,
unable to find myself
anywhere other than
on the outside.

I lie awake
on nights I can’t pretend
I don’t care
and think about not belonging.

A few nights ago I slipped out of bed
and pulled back the curtains
to see the winter night and full-moon light.

I stood there
in my not-man body,
cold air raising goosebumps on bare legs,
and leaned my head against the window glass,
looking up
to see the Wolf Moon
in a veil of clouds.

I always marvel at the moon,
her waxing, waning,
rhythmic revelation,
dancing with oceans
from afar.

That night, watching silvery reflections of a star
blending light and shadow
across a frosty landscape,
I think moonlight knows
the truest words for God.

Unity: The state of being united or joined as a whole

[Image description: water cascading over a short rock ledge into a pool of water, rocks along the banks of the stream, bare winter trees and cloudy sky in the background]

I see myself divided, dividing.
Ruptured, unleashing a torrent,
thoughts cascading one over another
at images I abhor.

current ever outward,
all reaction,
all or nothing,
with or against,
how could you,
dueling calls for unity or division,
backlash into the void.


carried away,
then clarity.
Take a long breath
and dive deep.


I can roll back
the tide of my own chaos,
the crashing wave after wave
clamoring noise in every second.

I can stem
the barrage of endless opinions
from ego unchecked.

I can gather in the deluge
of outward-flooding emotions
into a reservoir
of my own making.

I can calm them,
sitting in stillness,
allowing silence to flow in.

I can see where
light and shadow
within me co-mingle,
hear each other out,
acknowledge my own inconsistencies,
what troubles me about my own beliefs,
how far I am from the standards
I apply to others.

And I can hold these contradictions
until the clashing parts become
letting go,
letting go,
letting go.

Myself distilled
to deepest truths
until all of it is loved,
is love.

reservoir to the brim,
flowing over
creating tide pools of compassion,
for others to look deep
and see that they,
are love.

And in the
depths it’s clear
true unity
within my own
united heart.