Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Breakable Jesus

Twilight in moss-draped spruce brings the glazed
look of things seen through tears. Lulu’s book
splays in her lap, gold hair like a mist, her play
at my feet, talking to no one as a vision does.
She’s gathered her stuffed animals, arranged them
as if in pews, a half-circle of breathless worship.
From some back drawer or box we had stashed,
a figurine has come among them, cold ceramic
face, fragile, but sure eyes, the man of calendars
in the stores of my childhood. Holding a hand,
my grandmother’s maybe, I see myself in a gaze
older than we will ever be. I feel the promise
not only of safety or love but a care I was more
wholly in than anything alive. Let go, I wandered
to touch toys, dream the roles each one offered,
learning costs, choices, a blunt sword, cheap
plastic car, dinosaur with teeth big as our trees.
Late, late I would lie waiting to sleep as voices
talked on, certain my dreams would end exactly
as they told me, day’s light, the good breakfast,
wooden floor under my naked feet. But first
I might gaze at the little statue of Jesus, lift it,
before the kind voice said that’s breakable, son,
and we won’t get another. The face sun-cracked,
mole-flecked, haloed with old hair, seemed to me
the same as one hung on the barber shop’s wall,
the grocer’s, the Texaco station where I’d go
pee as they waited. Time came, I didn’t see it
anymore, or didn’t recognize it, so imagined it
left us. Now here it is again, the face I see freshly
chipped whose long hair hangs for Lulu’s touch.
I rock with coffee as she commands the room
to hear what Jesus says to animals who maybe
are not breakable yet but might get to be. So
do you know what breakable means, I ask her,
and she answers, “I know,” looking away, sure
now big danger breathes somewhere near us.
As the power in dream does, holding its tongue.  

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