Church of the Unnamed Subdivision
Jesus is the bright promise of hot dogs
and Coke in red cans with one drop of sweat,
a rock band with no drummer, just a box
behind the bassist going tick, tick, thwap.
He is the invitation to be saved,
if only you’ll come up front and kneel down,
be touched by a grace
greater than Family Services.
More filling than food stamps, chiller than weed.
I seek but find no clouds to cushion the blow,
no angels waiting antiseptic to cleanse
my wounds with their stinging glory.
Oh honey, that ain’t until the afterlife.
No wonder I wanted to kill myself.
The climb back up is steep, unripe walnuts
litter the asphalt of the cracking road.
In summer, we put our toes in the tar
the crews used to patch the broken veins
of Schwartz Road. Come autumn, we stain our hands
prying open shells with our small fingers,
bust our heads on a dare when our bikes won’t pop wheelies
over the hard, fallen nuts.
Our parents don’t know where we’ve gone—might care
might not. The air is crisp, the sun not set.
The women of the church will always take
us neighborhood kids in for VBS,
revivals and special Christmas programs.
They promise us so many lovely things.
When I think of Jesus, I think of pipe
cleaner antlers on candy cane reindeers,
matchstick crosses and oh-so quiet rooms.
The Lord is stillness and folded up hands,
long unstained dresses hiding unskinned knees,
little girls without rats’ nests in their hair.
Heaven loves all, but only protects those
worth protecting. Try as I might, that would
never be me. Our house, just one street over,
had pornos under the gooseberry bush
and boys sneaking beer through basement windows,
yelling that carried through open screen doors,
cupboards empty but for spaghetti strands.
Yes, even Jesus knew to stay away from that mess.
Jennifer Schomburg Kanke is originally from Columbus, Ohio and currently lives in Tallahassee, Florida where she edits confidential documents for the government in an undisclosed secure location, which sounds far more exciting than it actually is. Previously the reviews editor for Pleiades, she is currently a reader for Emrys. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Court Green, and Fugue.