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Snake Day

God is strange. He killed my father,
     and He is everywhere, all of the time.

He is spread across the twinkling shingles and the clean, white siding
     of this windowless church, this steepleless church with no sign.

You wouldn’t know it’s a church by looking at it.
     You know it’s a church because I’m telling you it’s a church
          and I know it’s a church because someone told me.

That’s how this one works.

I’m not inside of the church. You are. I have never been inside of it,
          because I never wanted to be inside of it,
even with those open-mouth doors. Are you still awake? I hear them say,
                    There is something that won’t leave my mind.

So where am I? I’m in a bedroom full of beautiful things.
     I’m in a bedroom and I’m writing this down.

They worship using snakes in that church.
     They pull snakes out of boxes and they hold the snakes up under dull, yellow lights.
          It’s not scientific.

The people pray, and sing, and chant, and the whole time they hold on to the snakes.
     I’m not going to talk about it like it’s a trick.

It’s a ritual, and you weren’t exactly invited to partake.
     But here we are.

You’re in their church and I’m in a bedroom. Where will you go from here?
     You go to my church, in my father’s living room, where he plays his mahogany guitar.

He invites the neighbors over to do church in the living room.
The neighbors come over, in work boots and school clothes, to do church in the living room.
          He plays his mahogany guitar. He loves that thing.

I’m going to sell that guitar, after he dies, to a stranger outside of a coffee shop, because I won’t want
to see it anymore, because I would rather see some twenty dollar bills nestled in my wallet than see
     my dead father’s guitar,

and I’m going to regret it. Look at how beautiful it is in his hands.

He plays his mahogany guitar and you sing with him.
     You sing new arrangements of old hymns and try newly to arrange your old self.
          It’s not scientific, either,

but does it feel different from where you just were, in that church with the snakes?
                         Do you love the sound
of his mahogany guitar?

You are going to take communion now, using grape juice and bread my mother made
               in a strange little machine. Watch.

He loves to serve you communion.
          He loves that mahogany guitar.

I want you to tell me something now that you’ve been to both of these places,
          once you’re comfortable and ready to talk.

Did you feel God in one place more than the other?

Do you prefer snakes or mahogany guitars?

I’m in this bedroom. I don’t have the answers. I have beautiful hands that hold beautiful things.

I pray often that they will not kill me. Uselessly, I pray
                    they won’t die.


          “May the flowers on this grave be forever gettin’ sideways tonight...” – Early Cuyler

& may we find it in ourselves, then,
to truly consider the lilies, their high-tight
buns & simple dresses. Or the jonquils,

daffodils, if you like, consenting to pose
before our winter-worn lenses, how
they accept their pixelization without
complaint, though the melody that crawls
out of their yellow trumpets will not
survive such weak conveyance.

& may we offer our hand, the music
slowing, to each bloodroot that we see,
shy & toothy in collars wide
as an angry star, to sway with them,
their golden fingers pressed into
our palms. The world may not be miserable
when tested, lived with, sniffed.

& let the purples of this wild place
find us before we sense them
walking up, cotton-ball-faced cornflowers,
with tentacle petals, in low-land breezes
lifting their hellos. A crowd of asters,
late morning, makes a mandala
for who? Let it not be miserable.

Let lady slippers in bloody bonnets
drink the dew splashed on their beards,
bean heads bowed together in bright
silences & dreams. & may this city of goldenrod
& violets raised where last week raged a flood
succeed in all endeavors.

May each seed find a grave, Godalmighty,
in our souls untilled as a field. There is no such thing
as misery. Touch me. It doesn’t exist.


image: Crow Jonah Norlander