I've died enough by now I trust just what's imperfect or ruined. I mean God, God who is in the stop sign asking to be shotgunned, the ocean that evaporates even as we float. God the bent nail & broken lock, and God the hangnail. The hangnail. And a million others might be like me, our hopes a kind of illegal entry, a belief in smashed windows, every breakage like breaking & entering into a concert hall, the place my friend & I crawled into an air shaft, & later fell asleep. After breakage there is always sleep. We woke to gospel hymns from the dressing room below, songs commending embrace to the fists, & return to the prodigal. And hasn't my luck always been a shadow, stepping out, stretching? I mean I trust what breaks. A broken bone elicits condolence, and the phone call sounds French if the transmission fritzes, and our brains--our blessed, desirable brains--are composed of infinitesimal magnets, millions of them a billionth-of-a-milligram in weight, so they make us knock our heads against hard walls. When we pushed through the air vent, the men singing seemed only a little surprised, just slightly freaked, three of them in black tuxes, & the fourth in red satin, crimson, lit up like a furnace trimmed with paisley swirls, the furnace of a planet, or of a fatalistic ocean liner crisscrossing a planet we've not discovered yet, a fire you might love to be thrown into. That night they would perform the songs half the country kept on its lips half of every day. Songs mostly praising or lamenting or accusing some loved one of some beautiful, horrendous betrayal or affection. But dressing, between primping & joking about their thinning afros, they sang of Jesus. Jesus, who said, "Split a stick, & you shall find me inside." It was the winter we put on asbestos gloves, & flameproof stuck our hands in the fireplace, adjusting logs. Jesus, we told them, left no proof of having sung a single note. And that, said the lead singer, is why we are all sinners. What he meant was we are all like the saints on my neighbors' lawns-- whose plaster shoulders & noses, chipped cloaks & tiaras, have to be bundled in plastic sheets, each winter, blanketed from the wind & the cold. That was what he meant, though I couldn't know it then.
From Wise Poison by David Rivard, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 1996 David Rivard. Used with permission.