I am four.
Morning stars are singing
as my mother whips me.
My cowboy belt strikes
across the air, churning
dust motes through the light.
For a surprise, God alights
to stand with me; neither
of us cries. In my house
courage is admired.
I am five.
Exiled to my grandparents
because my mother’s crazy,
or I’m bad. Who cares.
I’ve learned to read, and the world
flops open, a loose-limbed book
of wonder. Giotto in Life
paints a black devil lurking while
the hand of God pierces the sky.
Anguished angels at the Crucifixion
show me how to grieve.
I am six.
Riding through the dark night to
front seat murmurs from my mother
and her lover. I crank the window down
shout hymns at the winter air.
When my snot runs too fast for singing,
I pull back in, shut out the wind.
Huffed breath mists the glass so my
trigger finger can draw hearts:
KSA plus G for God.
I am seven.
In the convent school I’ve told
Sister Claire my family’s
Holy Catholic, not Roman,
and Sister has explained to the
whole third grade that all my family
will burn in hell for ever.
And ever. After an eternity of terror
and regret I hear the sigh
of God, who knows better.