Tema Stauffer, Reindeer, Indiana, 2003 (photograph)


When I telephone my friend who speaks to God by singing to the dirt
in her yard hand-over-fist as she plants for autumn, the friend with a flaming
cross tattoo across the top of her right foot as a reminder that, with every step,
she walks in Truth, and tell her how I abandoned my faith, she says you left
a church, but not a God
. I want to ask her and don’t— which one? You tell me:

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Lover, the latter of which is the one,
according to some, who once commanded a prophet to marry a whore
to make a point each time that prophet walked through every city
in the northern kingdom of Israel, searching brothel after brothel, looking
for his wife— of course, you can see where this is going: he’s given her

a name he only calls her when he’s dragging her home through the streets
by her hair, a name he’s using as he drops her in their dead yard
in front of their swollen children, whom he’s named mistake and mistake
and mistake, a name he’s still calling her as she tells him, I am a good
. She tells him, picking dirt from her teeth and dried blood

from her elbows, you weren’t the one I was leaving, you never are
maybe it’s not so hard to be a good woman, I say to myself, turning
away from the receiver and pressing my palm to its voice, maybe
it’s not so hard to have the kind of faith that lives and dies like the part
of dawn when you can’t see where the light is coming from, only that

everything it touches, it torches and abandons: it’s supposed to be beautiful
how he props her up in the sun, pours wine into her wounds, and sets
the bones he’s broken in her collar and wrists— it’s supposed to make
so much sense, this metaphor for absolute love, supposed to be so infinite,
you could set fire to a house made out of it and know it would never burn down.


M.K. Foster