Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview


What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
—Robert Lowry, “Nothing but the Blood”

At some point I stopped receiving Communion,
sat pews away so my father wouldn’t see
as I passed the plate without taking juice or cracker,
even sometimes pretended to swallow
on cue: For this is my body. For this is my blood.
I loved the way the purple dregs twinkled
when everyone lowered the plastic cups.

The problem with poetry is I want wine with it—
the problem with everything. My regular bar
has a pew against one wall where I sit
reading, rolling cigarettes, eyed by
and eyeing the other suppliants.
The bartender begins to set out paraffin candles.

My father nails a board to a board, calls it a table.
Calls it a hogpen, a coop. Calls it home.
A wrist nailed to a board is called salvation,
and how right it feels, this hard wood against
my back, right as the drink on my tongue.
It’s hard to call anything right
with nothing but this vocabulary of blood.  

return to top