by Alicia Cole
The pews are wooden, their dark stain open limbs.
Dark stain of tongues. Wide mouths. I’ve always loved
the singing, the white teeth. God doesn’t always sing,
but he does, I suppose, listen. Throats dry, wet,
no matter, gasp.
The pelicans at the beach stray with mouths open,
their bills ready for fish. It’s always the same:
Jesus walking and the cool skin of the water
under his feet. The birds wander in motion,
the birds fly.
I just don’t know if he sees the teeth, Jesus.
Some are prim, their white caps like ocean
swells. Some are deep rot. They all gnash
slowly, long motions of jaws. They all cut.
Jesus never cuts.
When I was a child, they wouldn’t let me sit on
the floor to play. Toys and books were quiet,
small favors. We all sang. The preacher
rose like thunder. Crashed just as hard.
And we sang.
The beach is never empty in a storm.
Pelicans make a long, low V. The crabs
scuttle. The water churns, waves a
hard, rolling boil. Jesus crests his head
above the waters.
Jesus was always clear. But the waters
roiled. I should have wrapped my head
Every beach in the church was littered.
The children, quiet.
Jesus moves thusly: one heart-aching stride.
I wish the pews were as long as the ocean.
The way everything crashed, it would have been easier.
* * * * *
Alicia Cole is a writer and artist in Huntsville, AL. She’s the editor of Priestess & Hierophant Press, and an artist at InsideOut Studio at Lowe Mill, a studio for disabled adults. Her work has recently appeared in Reckoning, SageWoman, Atlas and Alice, and NILVX. She's Irish-American, Aspergers, dyscalculic, bisexual, genderfluid, MAD, twice-exceptional, a survivor, a spiritual practitioner, and a recovering sex worker. She uses the pronouns she/her, and the honorific Mr. She lives with her husband, five animals, and four plants, loves coffee, plants, animals, tattoos, and art.