Fear of Falling
Common grace only assists the faculties of the soul to do that more fully which they do by nature . . . make a man sensible of guilt, and will accuse and condemn him when he has done amiss.
I made lists of offences. I tried, but could not
remember all of them.
Dresses in the bridal shop glint like shell enamel in moonlight.
Window-glass, dark and flat like water. Someone told me that
when I sinned God couldn’t hear me. When my mother left after
my prayers I would lie in my bed thinking about the stale red and
brown bricks of our first house. I could see a wall covered in ivy
and thin, light and dark green flecks of moss. My sins were bricks
and vines coiled delicately across the letters bursting into the first
letter of the first word—
In the beginning was a voice that kept changing mouths,
my loved ones. The voice said, “We are going to heaven
when we die.
Aren’t you afraid that you won’t be with us?”
Someone told us to hate our bodies
and we started running.
Josh and I made up a game called “Headlights” when we delivered
papers; it was about not being seen. We left before daylight and
dodged cars running between the houses on our route. What did
we know about desire, about guilt? —Guilt breathes inside the
house’s green siding.
When cars passed we hid behind trees, or along the side of
someone’s porch. Sometimes we got caught in the open and
dropped onto our stomachs in the frost-wet grass and let the beams
sweep the air over our backs.
Grace—what we meant by grace—fell from somewhere
It covered us and it kept changing. Flocks of birds
changed shape over the neighborhood and
we touched ourselves to let grace in. We stopped
We cut our hair. We were lost and saved, then not
We were translucent, thinner than angels, thinner than
angles of glass exposed
behind paper snowflakes. We were in the world and in the
world and in the world
Standing in the cold dark, a few cattails have broken through snow
near the opposite bank; the sky
is deep, glazed in street lamps along River Rd. Standing on ice,
clearing the rink, looking up toward
the house lights in soaked mittens—The voice says, “Choose your
God’s mercy is greater than God’s wrath, but God’s wrath is
terrible.” Your hands, your hair—your true face—
Not yours. The glazed sky laughs, coughing like a bottomless pit.
Snow banks flicker, shredding the glare of street lamps into
millions of tiny crystals—
Guilt was a light switch. Guilt was a stale crust of snow—a
from a magazine—Guilt was a mousetrap. Guilt was a
Guilt was moving and it kept moving.
Each texture of guilt was an open mouth, what I thought
was an open mouth
against my mouth. Each texture was washed and shadowed
Weeks before Christmas, constellations of trees and bushes
shiver against their frames. A pine across the field was covered in
blue and green light.
We knew God was holding us. We could see the golden
chain they told us
about; in rain and in snow, its links became visible,
straining over rows of houses.