Thank Goodness By Andrea Gibson

At the end of your ten day meditation retreat,
you got in your car.
drove thirty peaceful feet and ran over a bird,
splayed its holy guts on the pavement like God
finger-painting “Fuck you” across the deep breath you were holding they way your mother held her first born.
You,
thank goodness, were torn from the Bible the day before they burned it
for the verse about dancing to tambourines.

Once you saw the blood of Christ on a knife
carving redwood trees into church pews.
Now every Sunday morning you hear glaciers melting and you cry easy as a one night stand
never ever is,
when you see the feathers in your rear-view mirror
scattering like prayers,
searching for a safe place to land.
Hold me to my word when I tell you I will leave today,
catch a bus ticket west just to stand in the centre of your highway
blocking traffic ‘til every feather’s answered.
I’ve seen too many prayers
caught in the grills of 18 wheelers and folks like us
got shoulder blades that rust in the rain,
but they’re still g-sharp whenever our spinal cords are tuned to the key of redemption.

So go ahead, World, pick us to make things better.

We’ve been building a bridge through the centre of this song
since Mother Theresa replaced the walls of her church with the weeping cries of Calcutta’s orphaned ghettos.
You wanna know what the right wing never got?
We never question the existence of God.
What we question is his bulldozer
turning Palestine into a gas chamber.
What we question is the manger in Macy’s
and the sweatshops our children call the North Pole.
What we question are the sixty swollen lashes on the back of a woman found guilty of the crime
of allowing herself to be brutally raped.
What we question is the idea of heaven having gates.

Silly.
Have you never stood on the end of a pier watching the moon live up to her name?
Have you never looked in the eyes of a thief and seen his children’s hungry bellies?
Some days
My heart beats so fast my ribcage sounds like a fuckin railroad track
and my breath is a train I just can’t catch. So when my friends
go filling their lungs with yes,
when they’re peeling off their armour and falling like snowflakes
on your holy tongue, God
collect the feathers. We are thick skin covering nothing but wishbones.
Break in-
You’ll find notebooks full of jaw lines we wrote to religion’s clenched fist, Yes–
we bruise easy, but the sound of our bouncing back is a grand canyon of choir claps
and our five pointed stars have always been open to the answer–whatever it is.
I know David argued with the chisel.
I know he said, Make me softer.
When those tourists come looking for a hero
I want the rain to puddle in my pores.
Build me holy like that.

Build me a kite flown out a bedroom window at midnight
the day freedom set its curfew to 9:11.
My heaven is a snow globe.
The blizzard will always be worth the touch of Your hand
shaking me awake like a boy taking deep breaths
all the way down to the dents in his shins
like he’s building a telephone from a string and two tin cans.
He knows God’s number by heart.
He knows it isn’t listed in any book.
Look me in the bull’s eye,
in the laws I broke and the promises I didn’t.
in the batteries I found when the lights went out
and the prayers I found when the brakes did too.
I got this moment and no idea when it will end.
But every second of this life is scripture
and to know that
trust me, we don’t need to be born
again.

Pole Dancer By Andrea Gibson

She pole-dances to gospel hymns.
Came out to her family in the middle of Thanksgiving grace.
I knew she was trouble
two years before our first date.
But my heart was a Labrador Retriever
with its head hung out the window of a car
tongue flapping in the wind
on a highway going 95
whenever she walked by.

So I mastered the art of crochet
and I crocheted her a winter scarf
and one night at the bar I gave it to her with a note
that said something like,
I hope this keeps your neck warm.
If it doesn’t give me a call.

The key to finding love
is fucking up the pattern on purpose
is skipping a stitch,
is leaving a tiny, tiny hole to let the cold in
and hoping she mends it with your lips.

This morning I was counting her freckles.
She has five on the left side of her face, seven on the other
and I love her for every speck of trouble she is.
She’s frickin’ awesome.
Like popcorn at a drive-in movie
that neither of us has any intention of watching.
Like Batman and Robin
in a pick-up truck in the front row with the windows steamed up.
Like Pacman in the eighties,
she swallows my ghosts.

Slaps me on my dark side and says,
“Baby, this is the best day ever.”
So I stop listening for the sound of the ocean
in the shells of bullets I hoped missed us
to see there are white flags from the tips of her toes
to her tear ducts
and I can wear her halos as handcuffs
‘cause I don’t wanna be a witness to this life,
I want to be charged and convicted,
ear lifted to her song like a bouquet of yes
because my heart is a parachute that has never opened in time
and I wanna fuck up that pattern,
leave a hole where the cold comes in and fill it every day with her sun,
‘cause anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.

And I want to grow
strong as the last patch of sage on a hillside
stretching towards the lightning.
God has always been an arsonist.
Heaven has always been on fire.
She is a butterfly knife bursting from a cocoon in my belly.
Love is a half moon hanging above Baghdad
promising to one day grow full,
to pull the tides through our desert wounds
and fill every clip of empty shells with the ocean.
Already there is salt on my lips.

Lover, this is not just another poem.
This is my goddamn revolt.
I am done holding my tongue like a bible.
There is too much war in every verse of our silence.
We have all dug too many trenches away from ourselves.

This time I want to melt like a snowman in Georgia,
‘til my smile is a pile of rocks you can pick up
and skip across the lake of your doubts.

Trust me,
I have been practicing my ripple.
I have been breaking into mannequin factories
and pouring my pink heart into their white paint.
I have been painting the night sky upon the inside of doorframes
so only moonshine will fall on your head in the earthquake.
I have been collecting your whispers and your whiplash
and your half-hour-long voice mail messages.
Lover, did you see the sunset tonight?
Did you see Neruda lay down on the horizon?
Do you know it was his lover who painted him red,
who made him stare down the bullet holes
in his country’s heart?

I am not looking for roses.
I want to break like a fever.
I want to break like the Berlin Wall.
I want to break like the clouds
so we can see every fearless star,
how they never speak guardrail,
how they can only say fail.