Carlene Goes to Church
Yes, yes, I’m praying.
Can’t you see my folded hands?
What, you don’t like my expression?
Well, I don’t give a good God damn.
Why? I’ll tell you why.
The last thing I need is another
man, telling me what to do.
I already answer to my father,
who tells me not to drink
to my husband, who tells me what to think,
to my preacher, who tells me not to sin,
to my boss, who tells me what I got to do
for him if I want to keep my job
which he knows I got to do,
‘cause my husband can’t keep his.
But, still I’m praying, for all the good
it has done my in the past.
I prayed my mother’s cancer
would be cured. It wasn’t,
so I planned her funeral
and I accepted.
I wanted to go to college, so
I prayed not to get pregnant,
but I did. So, I accepted.
Then, I prayed that my poor,
damaged baby would live,
but it didn’t.
Now, we’re living in our car
‘cause the bank took our
house to pay the hospital
for the days they kept my
poor girl alive, while
telling me, it was hopeless.
Hell, I knew that.
But I couldn’t accept it.
I couldn’t tell them to pull
the plug on my gallant
girl with a two chambered
heart who kept on fighting.
I tried to make a bargain
with You, God. If only You
would honor her fight
to stay alive, for one more
day, for one more after that,
and yet another and another,
until I could find acceptance,
If You did that, I would return
to the church and pray
to You, once a day for
every day she lived.
But God you are hard, cold
and uncaring, you didn’t keep
your part of the bargain,
but I am keeping mine.
So here I am, on my knees
before a statue with
a bleeding heart, praying
to You, God, once a day
for each day my baby lived.
Then, when my part of the
bargain is fulfilled,
I’m going to join my girl,
wherever she is,
whatever is in store.
God, don’t look for me in death,
I’m not coming to Your door.
A More Innocent Time
His long plaid arm snaked around my waist, and
took the reins from my hands, signaling my ride
was almost over. The coming unwelcome routine
was the price I paid to ride. “Just lean back on me,”
his redneck voice requested, but I stayed rigidly upright.
Undeterred, his calloused hand explored my t-shirt
finding two small hillocks.
A brief, unspoken war was conducted at a bone-jarring
trot. I pushed his hand down; it crept up again. At 10,
I was too naïve to feel threatened, but an instinctual
unease was confirmed when his hand dropped each
time Dad’s dusty ’52 Chevy drove down the gravel road.
The redneck and his horse disappeared amid a roiling cloud
of whispers at summer’s end. I asked my dad where
he was, and his face went white and pinched, a Welsh
danger sign I heeded. Later, I hung back, unnoticed,
while Dad relayed second hand gossip about the man’s
trial to Uncle Earl. The words “molestation” and “predator”
were awkward in Dad’s mouth, and unknown to me, but I
didn’t care if the man went to jail. I broke cover to ask
“What happened to his horse?”
Janet Jenkins-Stotts has self-published a novel The Orchid Garden, and a chapbook, Winter’s Yield. Her poems have been published in Kansas Voices, Konza Journal, River City Poetry, Dash, Passager and the Swedish underground journal, Devote. She lives in Topeka, KS. with her husband and their min-pin, Romeo.