Mama, What Are They Saying in Church?


Hi all, today I’m sharing something I wrote over the course of this past week. I’m not quite sure what to call the piece below; it’s sort of a poem, sort of a rambling diatribe, certainly a sad line of questioning. I want to thank my friend and fellow poet-in-resistance, Alina Stefanescu, for giving this its first read and helping me enhance several parts. I don’t usually post my work here, but I’m making an exception this time, because it’s first and foremost just me, processing things, and because it seems urgent, if somewhat lacking in grace and control. Feel free to share.

Mama What Are They Saying in Church?

Mama, I’m wondering if in church this morning,
you got permission to post
about #charlottesville on facebook.

Mama, remember when you picked up that copy of
The Diary of Anne Frank at Goodwill
and told me I should read it?
I don’t think I was on the woman side of ten years old
and it felt unreal, but history
has a way of seeming fairy tale drained
of that genre’s pith—subversion, even risk—
when recited in Biblical terms, so on the regular side of Baptist,
I’m wondering if they mentioned #charlottesville and a woman
the same age as me, murdered by a Nazi.

Or will the pastor not call them that, just yet?

Mama, I’m wondering how many guns
came to church today, but I don’t expect you know
who paid for a permit to hide his weapon.
On the news last night, they interviewed a man, who
called the woman one of his comrades mowed down
an animal. During the interview
he pulled five automatic weapons from his person,
where they had been secreted,
and threw them on the motel bed. And Mama,
I know it’s late, 
but I’m wondering about  Anne Frank again
and how you said 
we should think about what we’d do
if we were there, and 
I wonder if you think it all happens in a vacuum
and there is nothing but the damaged and
nothing but a closet to hide them in—
as if there is only ever a Christian hiding a Jew,
somewhere in the fairy tale,
always that hallowed cupboard or
crawlspace, just the fact of it having existed, to pull down
and dust off and show the kids–
self-administered absolution,
as if it couldn’t happen here, since my side of center,
(I can hear you saying it) trafficks too much in hyperbole.

Mama, what are they saying in church
about sides? About the one that’s saying
please don’t shoot us?
About the side whose persecutors,
unlike the others on the spiritual mantelpiece,
still have a few statutes left standing in their country, of
men like them who came before.
You can’t put them in a crawlspace or a closet—
its never that simple, and anyway, the ones we might
have harbored, not in a closet, but at Christian
kitchen tables, are obliged to stay
in cities like Aleppo.

#antifas have some
hashtags that the President has scorned,
saying all that really matters is those lives
that had a permit to assemble in #charlottesville.
A story revolves around permission, you used
to say. But Mama what are

they saying

in church?


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