I’ve been writing poetry since I was eight. Nobody liked any of it until I was forty-one. I still don’t know what that’s all about, but I appreciate it.

Sorry For Punching You When You Were Jesus

(from Apologies)

Look,
I get carried away
and I’m really sorry, but 
I was playing a Roman soldier,
and you were playing Jesus, and 
I’m committed to my role—aren’t you?

Sorry,
that sounds like an accusation,
and this is supposed to be an apology,
a formal, sincere apology from me to you
because when I pretended to hammer a nail
into your Jesus-hand, I swung too hard and punched
your arm and I didn’t stop the skit to see if you were OK.
I gave you a dirty look because I’m a Roman soldier, and a Roman 
soldier wouldn’t care if he punched Jesus, but you’re not Jesus, except 
when you are, and I’m not a soldier, except when I am.

Look,
I really am sorry.
I should have stopped the skit, but it was 
our church’s anniversary and I didn’t want to 
disappoint all the sweaty August bodies compressed 
in our pews, and that boy asked me earlier how I’d broken 
my nose, when I’ve never broken my nose, and I thought his stare 
meant I’m pretty, but it meant he thinks I’m scrappy, 
like the kind of soldier who’d punch a god, 
but you’re not a god, 
you’re another 
boy who 
stares.

Sorry,
that’s another accusation.
I’m not good at apologizing,
and I’m not good at being stared at,
or stopping to assess the damage
while the play’s still going because 
I’m committed to my role, and
I’m committed to you, and 
I promise not to punch you
when you’re Jesus, unless 
everyone’s watching
and I’m still in
my soldier’s 
clothes.

Untitled (from Apologies)

The day I turned eighteen
        I bought a pack of
             Marlboro Reds—
                  The Fellowship Hall
                       was empty and God
                   wasn’t watching
          wispy smoke snaking
     out a cracked window
            of a church he’d
                  never heard of