(NOTE: If you wish, you can click here and be taken to a page where I emboldened certain words to try to convey the rhythm and meter of this poem, which is literally essential to it. But: if you wish to just wade in, first time thru and let the rhythms and meters rise and fall, fade and disappear and then come back, well that is ideal because that is literally written into the work as its own “poem of rhythm”. In either case, I hope you are able to read thru it…the things in this poem literally happened to me, with me).
I get it. I do…in spite of what you might think, maybe
several of you, maybe dozens of you, maybe
hundreds, or thousands or millions of you
have endured deserts and mirage oasises
vanished in life when it comes to the subject of God.
I hear your stories, the bitter rants of some, the tired futility
of many others, I have taken venom, been covered in acid,
as I lead face first and I listen to tales of one
thing held in desolate common.
“God’s not here”.
“God wasn’t there”.
“God isn’t real”.
“God doesn’t care”.
I bleed when you cry in anguish, and weep as I
hear your recitals, and then in dark rage, and then
finally in grief, that pools on the dark other
side of the desert, in that null empty kingdom of
Ozymandias the great ruler of Vanity.
You might think I weep sanctimonious, sorrowful
supplicant of righteous standing, who’s crying for
those destitute and benighted, the distant, the stranger and
other, from my tower of ignorant pie in the sky…
You’d be wrong.
I weep in guilt.
For my tale of dark woe is so anti-tragic,
a Mysterium Tremendum, of a wretch so
shattered and shipwrecked in this desert island
My story is different, and I feel so guilty,
confused as to why even in existential
despair I am still on the outside of
the common narrative swirling around me?
Contrary to you, in your longing and noble long
struggle to live, and to surmount desertion and
lost lonely silence by God in Their Heaven above…
I have always been
Haunted by a Lovely God.
When I was little and in my first dawning awareness,
and ageless, I recall that I always heard This Voice,
and at first I thought it outside me, I thought the wind had a
voice, or perhaps it was Trees, but it
never was dirt under my feet, no,
dirt is a tongue-tied dull mute.
As I grew I realized that the voice was inside me…in my heart, and I came to
treasure its company and the glad beauty of thoughts, and of musings. Then
I told my parents what it had told me, and,
flabbergasted, they asked where did I hear that?
And I told them “God. God told me”
(for that is Who the voice told me They were
and …Jesus like a Shepherd led me).
They laughed! LAUGHED! And while they were
not mocking, they merely thought
I was mistaken, had fantasized wonders.
So I cried then, and thought that
maybe my parents were right.
And then came the break, the thirsty sword stroke
that cut me to ribbons, my soft girly heart left in shreds…
then the slavery started with harsh words resounding, those
prison door words…and God was still there, holding
me in my tears, wrapped
around my hurt heart…and I longed for death, wanted to
jump in the river from that tall steel bridge I crossed
over each day but God asked me “please”, and…
who can say no to God when They ask “Please?”
Then They would give me a joy for that day…and They
gave me a dog! Oh! How she and I bonded!
But you have already heard some of the tales of Millie…”Good Old Dog!” No…
this is the story of me being Haunted…
Haunted By a Lovely God.
One time, I was alone outside our house
(the one in the Pear Orchards down
near the cold creek where my Millie and me chased those
skimmer bugs and slippery pollywogs all live-long day…)
and it was warm in the soft early evening and dusky and glowing ethereal gloaming,
the good dusk…and wind softly rustling thru fruit trees so
heavy with life and the sounds of the living earth echoed around me…
…and then all was silent…
Suddenly, and it caught all my attention immediately! Slowly I
walked to the pear trees and stood, just to listen…and I heard it…something!
The call of a Mourning Dove
(or is it Morning Dove? I can’t distinguish the
One from the other, it seems to shift
back and forth always and ever).
It cooed and it called, and it seemed to me as if it spoke to me,
saying…”Come out to Me, Baby… Come out to Me. Come home to Me.”
(Lady Grace, She calls me Baby now, here today)
I was so skert! I thought it was a ghost! And this ghost it was longing for
my tender spirit and if I went out there, it would get inside me and
I would belong to it, always and be its flesh, its living body for
it to inhabit, its dwelling place then and forever.
I wasn’t far from the truth… I look back, I think it was Her, Lady Grace,
Dove come down, Her Voice was calling me, claiming me even then as Her own…
I wonder what would have happened, my life had I heeded Her,
gone to Her, run to Her heedlessly on that first day?
It’s not coincidence that our trees now, all around our house are filled with
Morning Doves (Mourning Doves too), calling, cooing…and pestering people in
our neighborhood, but so comforting to me as totems and emblems,
reminders of Mama’s first call to my hurt lonely soul and my soft tender heart.
Then: it was Veteran’s Day, fall, 1969.
We went to town several miles from home for the parade…I insisted that
Millie come with us, and after the music and marching had ended, we
went to the movies: “The Love Bug”. But Millie was left in our Volkswagen van.
(the one that was faded red
with canvas roll back top
and that relentless bamboo pole that
Dad used to poke us and hit us with
when we were clear in the
back and too rowdy and rude.)
and when we came back to the van…
she was gone.
I cannot tell you what that was like. I nearly fainted. I ran in the
street screaming her name, as cars screeched stop and Dad chased
me hollering “Get Back Here!”
We drove the streets hours and hours, me, head out the window, her name become
my tongue protruding and flapping and desperate in the cold wind.
I screamed that name loud, again and again until I was hoarse, and I kept
screaming, my grief-expiation for killing my dog with my stubborn insistence that she come along.
I tried to bargain with Them…in the sibilant cold and the darkness, I lifted my face:
“I will scream her name until I pass out and can never talk ever again, and then
You will receive my burnt offerings of me and give me what I earned with
desperate grief, what I bought with my service…my heart, Millie come back safe home.”
They remained silent, aloof (and I wonder if this is where They were in your tale of sorrow…).
Finally Dad said “she’s gone”…so we had to go home, in that cold rainy dark night of loss
on that day that we remember and honor the valor of
those who faced their fears and endured for me.
I threw up. I do that when I get distraught…I always have done…I cried, and
cried and I cried, and when I had no tears I groaned and keened, inconsolably moaning…
crying til dust poured from my eyes in place of the tears long drained empty by
grief so stark it was a terror strong, threatening to crush me forever.
My folks were hurting for me, so they used what they always had carved me with,
thought was the best for me, raw in my towering emotions and gaugeless deep passions…
words, stern and cruel, words so full of dark violence, and those words’ incarnated beast,
gawd…the spanking…well…yeah, the Red Raving and Hungry Beast.
I was forced to eat my dinner, and I threw it up…on the table, on all the food
laid there for others to eat. Then I got spanked and sent straight up to bed…
where God was silent and no where to be found… but hey, Ima talker, right?
So I cried out to Them into the darkness thick…
(now get this, and understand that I’d been thru the
wringer of Sunday School, Hellfire Sermons,
Damnation Devotions, and I knew enough to be good or the
devil would get me. I once was told: “I will not spank you…
I’m just gonna let satan get you”…and I roamed behind my mom
hours, and wailed agonizing in fear and stark terror, and
begged her to spank me, deliver me from evil on the cross
of my butt, and her hard paddle the hungry
propitiation for my sins and my wrongs…and
I knew that so many times I had done things,
hell-things like say “shit” or steal cookies, or
sneak out the window to sleep with my Millie and
her wriggly puppies though I was forbidden to,
or watch cartoons on a Saturday morning so
early and low before anyone woke up and caught me at it…and I’d
never been sent to hell…God had not bothered to notice or
even to thunder at me, or make trouble over me, and I
knew lots of people thought God was a fairy tale, which, frankly,
mystified me cus They talked to me so much when I was so little.)
That nite…I cried in a jagged blood whisper, my voice bleeding raw, and the
words, still they linger there, seared deep in me to this very day, now, here with you.
(and now, in this moment… I feel so damn guilty!
Why me??? Why did They talk to me of all people?)
I cried out “God…if You’re really there, real…bring my doggie home…PLEASE!” Then…
somewhere, somehow, I moved past bargains, and buy-offs and bribes…I had cried my way
thru the stark castle of filthy rags and entered into the place of no exit, the
inner sanctorums of grace, where there’s nothing to buy there with money, and
there is no bargaining, no supplicating, no pleas, there is just the
beginnings of Mercy Free…
and crying out the word please in that dark night, eyes
gummed shut with sorrow and tacky tears I at last faded off into sleep
dreamless as I grieved and wished I was dead, like I did every night, and at
last I knew nothing, released and insensate and absent within the lost
shoals of sleep’s gift of respite from my agony, sorrow and grief.
Until I woke, instant and on point, into an electrical dark of night
black glowing bright-black that cast light and filled the still air with a
presence, thick, substantive knowing, and threatening to
rend plain reality like the quick ripping of shrouds in the
hands of the dread faced and tall grim deliverers….
…and I heard scritching, and
(oh oh oh)
her whine (that lil ki-yiy-yiy she always used to call me heart to heart)
and I jumped from the top bunk with a thunderous thud loud enough to wake
even the dead and I got up and ran thru our house in that miracle moment:
“GOD BROUGHT BACK MY DOG!”
“GOD BROUGHT BACK MY DOG!!”
Babbling over and over again like a babe, Bartimaeus had nothing on me!
Shattering slumbering sundering darkness and giving voice
to that One Thing that I am:
Haunted by a Lovely God
Fumbling feverishly I rolled the gravestone away in my heart and threw
open the back door where she called me eagerly whining in joyous returning at sunrise…
she’d jumped a 6 foot fence out of obedience so she could come in thru the
Eye of the Needle: the back yard garage door. She limped and jumped on me
and I went down to the ground, I was crying and kissing her and she was
kissing me too and I ran my hands over her, scarcely believing that she was real,
she was returned, she was home and alive, and my heart was restored unto me.
Then she rolled over, so I could scritch her tummy like she loved
and when I ran my hands over her precious side, my fingers slipped inside
her skin and I drew them back from her side which was pierced and torn open…
I know, the metaphor seems so damn cheesy, right? It really
happened this way! That’s the kind of thing I feel so
guilty for… it’s like They shouted it from the Bright Heavens that
I was not ever escaping Their Undying Love never ceasing and
new every morning. I’m telling you that I have always been
Haunted by a Lovely God).
She had torn open her side, and I’d thrust my hand in just like Thomas and drawn it back,
bloody and warm and changed and I collapsed,
(cus I can’t handle blood, even though it has
handled me, covered me, branded me,
marked and commanded me
forever Under the Mercy)
I murmured brokenly “God hear my prayers, God heard my prayers, God hear my prayers,
God heard my prayers”.
Later, my parents made sure I knew that this was highly unusual, God has more
pressing concerns than my dear dog, or listening to me scream and demand…
yeah, there are all kinds of other prayers over the years, that went up and bounced off…
you know the kind…yeah, those
…and life went on…went on…until
Puberty hit and then hell came home hard to stay…in hair and voice and a
horror-beard (and oh god oh god, oh god down there, oh god please no).
And life required again its cruel ransom, and I wanted, longed to lay me on the gears and cogs
that turned in schools and the church groups that seemed to me incomprehensible
strangers, in their innate knowing of how to move and how to laugh and to be… again
I longed, desired to do away with me…this gender-joke…absurd and ugly mistake, just an
ironic blight on “There” and “Here” because I was neither…here or there, just a null thing
…I had another time, deep in the darkness of night and numb tears and dumb talking to Them…
1973…14 and awkward and lonely and numb from the bashing I gave me to
un-know who I was and was not supposed to be, allowed to be, allowed…
On that nite, cold and alone in the darkness I told Them that I was not going to follow Them.
I was resigning from being a christian and that I was leaving Them once and for all.
“No offense”, I said. “It’s not you, it’s me”
(I’d yet to discover how this trope is used when we
want to abandon an unwanted suitor or
how its thrown out…to hurt and to wound a familiar dull
lover become coarse and rank and too shrill)
“You have done nothing wrong, You have not failed me, no it’s I who’ve failed You, and
what’s worse, I cannot BUT fail You…always, because I’m a
“horrible boy, I’m an
absent mute girl, I am
nothing, and I count for
nothing and I live on
nothing and I mean more
nothing, just more black
horrible, lost empty nothing.
“I am not going to church anymore,”
(for in those days I, like others around me, assumed that if
you went outside and climbed into the
chicken coop then such a fat happy bird you’d become.)
“…when school starts up again, I’m going to say yes instead of
no thanks when they offer me pot, and offer me drinking, and
offer me bodies and no clothes and company there in the darkness and then I’ll be
numb and feel wanted at least…
“I cannot do it, walk blameless and upright, for
I am a constant habitual wallower in my sin
all the time in my heart, in my mind as I fail ceaseless,
besides, I don’t even desire to be in on this world full of Leavenworth walls…
“I will not fake it! I refuse to be like them, sitting in their pews…
“with hallelujah on their lips and wanna screw ya in their hearts!
“I’ll stay alive, take my medicine straight and deserved and so bitter…and
maybe if I try I will even manage to conjure up a hearty yummy while
I drain the draughts of despair bone-dry…
“I know You’ll send me to hell…I deserve that, and even more so…I don’t
hold that against You, for You are and You always have been so Beautiful…
no, it is me, blight and curse, it’s just me, a disease in this world and pure poison.”
Fountains of sorrow again welled up, even as I wondered why they could
never be fountains of joy? And I cried and cried…softly so no one could hear me…
my brother sleeping…as always in these cut-off times…and
Millie was newly dead, gone to run free in the fields of her dreams, yet another cruel
tribute collected by Usurper death…that left me so empty,
so cold, so cut-off and bereft.
Until I heard it…the Voice!
Calling me gently (as always), so I held my breath, listened to be sure it was Them, then
I heard a soft quiet question asked so plaintively…
“What would it take?” (Ummm…whaaa? I didn’t get it)
“What would it take, Precious One? Child, what would it take for you to not check out,
not go away, but to come here and spend time with Us everyday?
Talk to Us, listen and just be for Us… just be Ours always,
just as your dog, Good Old Millie was your friend, and she belonged
only to you?”
This was a careful and startling question and it was quick,
coming at me curving sideways! So I had to really think!
Something absurd, something so damned unusual, that there was no way it
ever could happen, I mean, don’t get me wrong…I still wanted to be with Them,
wanted to share in Their sweet soft communion, cus I LOVED my Jesus, my Shepherd who
I always dreamed someday would leave the 99 and come to rescue me, I dreamed that
He was my Jester to make me laugh joyously, dreamed that He was my best Friend
…I just wasn’t…His best friend…and I couldn’t fake it. Nope.
So it was crucial I create conditions that even the Almighty God couldn’t meet
God cannot make a rock so big that They cannot lift it, but They can do anything
so They can make this rock so big that even They cannot lift it…wait…
I was searching for that Rock that God couldn’t lift… right? So
I said to Them “If, when I wake this morning, and my dad says ‘Kids we are moving’…
if there’s a strange town so distant where nobody knows me, and no one has
seen me, and I can start over, start fresh and anew, then I’ll choose you forever and
give my heart freely…lock, stock, and barrel, completely to You… I’ll be Your Millie,
all of my days till I die and my sentence is over.”
Silence gave answer…then after a bit…I drifted away breathing
deeply again as my tears crooned soft lullabies
to my hot cheeks, they ran down in such ancient deep
canyons of sorrow…down my face, down my heart,
down my soul to end up glistening in sorrowful streamers.
When I got up the next morning, things didn’t sparkle or gleam, and I didn’t
remember the Voice, the Epiphany…I was just staring at breakfast my mom used to
“cook” me in those days…Shredded Wheat with skim milk…and feeling
…that gulf, that dark feeling. That feeling. Yeah… The relentless sharp
razor slash cutting inside my soul, forever aching and Constant.
I wasn’t list’ning, as Dad droned on talking of somethingorruther… until I heard
him say the word…“moving”…something about that word…
why did it stick out?
Then in a quicksilver windstorm of memory-shredded, each piece was
hitting me, sticking, unripping its way to become one
coherent experience, and I recalled my reply to Their inquiry…
so I turned quickly and asked my dear father what did he just say…and he
said it again! He confirmed it! Just as I’d laid forth, to a T!
Haunted by a Lovely God.
(I feel so guilty… why am I treated thus?
Why me? Why not the prayers of parents
whose children suffer and die in horrible pain for
nothing that they ever did?
Why not the prayers of wives for soldiers
Cain has already marked for death’s dark
gaping foul maw, prayers supplicating
deliverance, protection, but
they go unheeded and
Death eats again?)
And of course, we moved, and I did…commit myself to Them…
once all for always…yep, I was in…And I’ve hated it sometimes, and loved it at others.
I’ve grown and I’ve changed, seen Them change before my eyes as they were
opened and I could see other than my own idolatrous self and that
small god I fashioned, so stunted, blind, deaf and so mute in the
vanity of my self worship when my box, my image of Them I had
made was so gloriously broken!
I’ve sorrowed and railed… I’ve been outcast by mean so called
spiritual family, been stunned by the towering cruelty of those who should
know better, done blindly in the Most Wonderful Name of Them…
Lovely God to me, and so ugly and coarse, buffoonish in their mocking mouths.
I met my darling, and we had our babies…
she/they are amazing miracles…I watch the
lives of my college acquaintances shipwreck, their
marriages foundering on the black jagged rocks of their alluring
careers and blood money…and I watch the children of
hard working salts, such dear people around me, more worthy than I, better
people than I, quaff drugs like their hearts are on fire, and join themselves
numbly to anyone there in those earthquakes of loneliness,
wreckages strewn in their wake and their orphans tossed
careless like litter abandoned.
And I have prayed with these people, so passionate, supplications far more
suitable than my own bumbling tongue-tied petitions and tall ebenezers…
and seen them bounce off, with dust poofing, dry-cloudy in
dull drifting mockery…
…and I feel so guilty.
Because They have haunted me… They’ve apprehended me… taken me…
They have not let me go, not let me drift… and I,
transgender woman held in such derision by
most of the offspring of the Blood of the Lamb…
The Holy Spirit has even shown me Her Name and Herself, Lady Grace,
and She’s drawn so near to me, to be ma Mère…my Mama, and teach me
my secret heart and my self, so young and emerging.
And yet still I ask myself why am I haunted?
I could go on, forever recounting the
stories of Their faithful presence and meddling hands…of
Yosemite Sacred, cathedrals where mountains became the
Triune God, and I fell asunder to claw at the dirt in despairing blood-guiltness and
crying for mercy… and wonder of wonders!
El Capitan: Papa…Half Dome, cut asunder became My Friend Jesus…
Yosemite Falls: my Lady Grace, flowing and washing forever until I am pure…
Bridal Veil Falls was me, shifting emotions and prevarications blown
lacey and wandring across rocky faces but always to Them…
rising up from the ground, clean and unsullied as
Waterdeep sang for me They have been nothing but
Good in my life!
Each time I hear someone’s tale of woe filled with despair or with cynical bitterness flowing,
or just fatigue and futility…I am worse than any teller, and merit less than the askers, more
toxic than anyone else whose had issue with God, or
issue with Their present absence, or make issue with Them because
“there is this construct God which has come
out of nowhere, seemingly and thus doesn’t exist
(unlike anything else which its knowing of testifies to its being)…”
I have not told you this tale to shame you… I who am shame incarnate for so long.
Nor to claim privilege or power, position… I do not have an iota of that.
…I have not told you to lobby, convince you… or
proselytize, or evangelize you. God No!
I have made my expiation to you, my confessors…
The sin I am guilty of? Of this I Charissa Grace stand blood guilty:
Haunted by a Lovely God.