For years, Adam counted the beans. Each morning, at eight o’clock sharp, he took the pot from the cupboard, placed it on the countertop, withdrew exactly eleven raw beans, and placed them in his hand. The beans were smooth and variegated, like small eggs of a beautiful bird. It pleased Adam to look at them for a moment before putting the eleven in one of the plastic bottles that he always found in the alley next to his house. Eleven, he liked to say, because it is the only number that resembles the betrothed as they approach the priest. Some said that this number was the number of times that Adam had been in the hospital, but they were simple people who had never aroused a divine experience of their own.
When I have counted all beans, I will be happy, Adam would say. But it seemed doubtful that he could continue his mission. The house was full of bottles: all of the shelves, each nook, and each corner exhibited a grand assortment of labels and colors that reflected the pitiful light into bizarre figures that seemed to dance on the celling. I have the bathroom, Adam said one day when the authorities at last knocked on the door. I still have my sock drawer.
The ambulance made the sound of knives when they fall on the floor. A dog sadly barked. A long way to go, said Adam from the back window. We still have a long way to go.
This piece first appeared in The Tishman Review, 2016
Freshly fallen from the mountain, Jedidiah in the thick garden
moonlight cautions us that death is an illusion. Some ease
their dark debt with blindness but Jedidiah steps forward, intact:
I rotted in the rock for a long lake of years
before uninvited, I inhaled my roses again.
Between sky and dust, death is the only fiction.
I looked suffering in the face, saw its cruel intention,
seized the history of ages by its forearm for a strong pulse.
My choice was the branch and this rope of my own hand
but that door closed on me. I am more alive now
than when my life was an egg in the womb of the world.
Oblivion took pity on me, freed my shackled breath,
declared my destiny. I am a tool of God
and his legions of descendants who spread like spilled
wine from this garden. They need my blood
to rinse their absolution.
This piece first appeared in Cerise Press, Spring 2013 under the title Incrimination.
Walking in the desert, he arrived at a rope. It was thick, woven of coarse fibers – and hung from the sky as by an invisible hook. The air was clear, not a single cloud, and although he raised his head as if he were preparing his throat for the sacrifice, he could see nothing except the rope that shrank and disappeared into the heights of the sky. I wonder, he said to his hands, if it is possible to climb. But his hands did not answer him. Nor the desert, which had quarantined its opinion, as if its opinion could contaminate the pure certainty of the phenomenon.
Hesitantly he touched what seemed a miracle and the rope changed its position a little, perhaps the width of an ant. It seemed to shimmer, as if it contained a single silver thread. He touched it again, this time with more confidence, with both hands, and circled it with his fingers. I think I’ll give it a tug, he said to himself.
Despite her few years, the girl in the city knew that her brother was dying. The doctors had shaken their heads and backed out of the room. The world was not so old and one more death would not fill its ample cave of bones. Meanwhile, a drop of prayer fell into the barrel of prayers and you could hear the girl’s voice in the splash. At the same time, a bell shook the air and the brother sat up in the bed. I was a man, he said. A man with thirst in a land devoid of sky, of salvation. Through my fingers, I saw that the world is a wheel with so many spokes – and someday I will grow to roll it.
This piece first appeared in The Tishman Review, 2016
When creation collapsed upon the cross, wind and rain capsized the village of my birth and wrapped it in fishes. The wrinkled sky wore an ashen winter cloak and we nibbled sodden leaves from the pinnacles of trees.
The animals inside us mated with distress and in breathtaking discord obstructed the humanity of our voices. My family retreated beneath the waves and the air imprisoned in their lungs was wholly liberated.
Exhausted, and pardoned by an impartial shore, I stripped myself somber and naked, then encouraged my dripping form and figure south.
I saw a streak of my rightful self across an enormous canyon but rodents on the long road had gnawed my strength to stubs.
An angel melted into my nose and throat to thaw my frozen blood. The heartbeat of my fear slowed to a waltz and my eyesight grew a pointed stick to puncture the mist.
Exhuming a fallow torchlight, I seeded it with oil and illuminated the corridors that run as reckless ponies through the raging night. All the impious gods came out to greet me with their fingers on their faces and their hair in bamboo shock! to find me still alive.
For I had arrived from across a sea of petrified nations, over the discarded bodies of the warm unborn, and through a furious gauntlet of desperate dying worlds.
This piece first appeared in Generations Literary Journal, Fall 2013
In hard-packed craters, when water ran foul and my heart was still small in its progression from slave song to symphony, I watched for your seed in sand, saw spring limp into summer.
Truth and dust in my face, with my books and the entire bones of Joseph, I renounce my country (a hailstorm of welts) and search the complete evening of my life for a hillside of crops.
These things still nourish me: olive, peach, corn, cactus, orange — and a fragile sense of a god who has lost control of his bladder.
In my child mind, a furrow
cut with a stick
on the harvest table
and my mother
a warm robe
to cover my shaking chest.
Yet: from concord, war slips beyond reconciliation. Brother surrenders to the flood. The hawk swoops down on the snake. God burns his image on my thigh.
These are my stories
that on a cool night crackle
in the knots of logs; these are my smells that mix
from the curling edge of bark.
This piece first appeared in Stone Telling, January 2016.