We were told to go,
spread the gospel,
preach Christ crucified,
the resurrection of the body,
and we loved one another
for love is of God
and he who loves is of God and he who loves not
must be loved anyway
but it wasn’t easy
at night the steep green waves
the whole big curve of the sky falling over
and over us
my friends floating dead.
When I went in the surf to prove it a dream
their faces reached up from the water.
Psalms will help you sleep at night, they said,
But Psalms never helped.
David was a bitter man, bitter,
crying for the death of his enemies.
Beloved, let us love one another,
for love is of God. You must learn to love your neighbor as yourself,
or more, and if you don’t love yourself
we don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Read your Bible an hour every morning.
Wait and see what a difference it makes.
If you don’t feel loved
we don’t know what’s wrong with you
and you probably need professional help,
but the shrinks are against us.
The shrinks will turn you from the Lord.
They played a game
where if we are the Body of Christ
what part of the Body are you?
I was the offending eye,
and I wouldn’t play the game.
When I went home I lay down on the floor,
the offending eye plucked out,
the stiff branch cut off fruitless from the vine
and cast away, my mouth stuffed with bitter leaves,
curled up, closed tight,
arms legs eyes mouth mute immobile
no prayer left in them.
I lay down by the stair,
and that was all the prayer I had left in my body,
that when I stopped walking
it was there, where Anna would find me,
put her arms around me,
teach my mouth to pray again.
We shared a house and the house fell down
the sky split red and black hurricane
rain against the windows a gray river shining
between the house and the University
strangers forded it
a refuge set up in the science building
damp books bodies carried in from the river
We waited, the world cracking around us
bombs in the sky at night
end of the world, we stood in the kitchen,
arms around each other calm
end of all and his voice calling we ran
through the flood waters shouting
calling to him to each other
seeking the bright beloved face
the sky over us noisy with light.
From the window I shout Anna, Anna, he’s here!
(Last night again bright light hurt my eyes,
woke me suddenly, completely shouting Lord!
Is it you? Stupid heart pounding hope I pressed
my face to the window
saw the moon through the vines.)
His hand meets mine in the middle of the couch.
They snuffle like animals, sweaty
forbidden mating of fingers
while we talk semantics,
the meaning of love in every language but our own.
Angry words in my own tongue
tear my throat, unspoken.
I want to say, I know you hate me for my body.
You keep calling me sister
but I won’t be your sister if sister means
you are afraid of me.
Sister is a sexual word, like brother,
woman, childbirth, breast–
If you want to neuter me call me sibling
and be done with it.
Forget we both have bodies,
forget the cup of blood,
poured out for you, brother,
forget the resurrection,
the body made whole.
the resurrection pounds the walls of my body,
shouts to you that I am beautiful tonight
but sister in your mouth is fear.
Sister is a stone between your teeth.
Women went with spices in the morning.
When they saw the stone was rolled away
they were afraid.
In the cave your slow words build around me
I am screaming.
I can walk out, a meek stick person
in the morning, or wait
until someone hears me screaming
I am a woman, and alive.
I come in at the back of the meeting
watch the faces turn toward me.
It’s been a long time.
They are remembering my name.
I want to know, am I their friend tonight
or a lamb astray, returned to the fold,
a moral lesson?
I lift the gleaming armor of the Roman,
waiting to walk the second mile
under the heavy armor hot with the sun shining on it,
falling in step,
but I am not now a sheep in woman’s clothing
but myself in my own skin,
bending, rising, straightening up,
knowing my own strength,
knowing the anger layered in my shoulders,
choosing to walk against that anger,
walking toward my friends.
Copyright ©2012 Elizabeth Evans
Previously published in We Accept Donations, San Diego.