Blurred Boundaries at the Queer Bar

“None for me, thanks,” God says, when offered the security of a few defining boundaries. We’re at a queer bar. In the laughter, music, and seductive light, fireflies dart among those soon to fall. Approaching the revolving door, there’s a howling madman with guns and guns and guns. God runs her fingers through newly permed hair.

“We aren’t safe here,” I whisper.

“We aren’t safe anywhere,” God whispers back. “Relax.”

The beautiful, playful Embodiment raises her glass and winks. Hatred is creating cracks in the foundation beneath us.

“I’ve worried about you most of my life,” I tell her. “You indulge in too many altered states. You’re flimsy, malleable, and easily abused.”

God’s face breaks into a familiar hand-in-the-cookie-jar grin. “Well, at least I’m not gullible. My odds aren’t great, but that’s never stopped me from being true to myself.”

The cracks widen. Suddenly, we’re floating under an oil slick, auditing the military-industrial complex. We’re buying digital currency, baking sourdough bread, digging out from a mudslide. A child has won an assault weapon in a lottery, and ammunition is raining from a thunderous sky.

“This isn’t real,” I shout at the Body trampled by a stampeding crowd.

“Too real,” the Body shouts back, but the message is garbled. Her jaw is broken. This will make it even harder to discern her voice, and I am afraid.

“Fear not,” God declares with bravado. “I can teach you sign language. And I’ll be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

“Of course you will,” I mumble. “And that’s what I fear the most.”

“The end of the age?” God asks. “Or me?”

“Both.”

The war is vicious. The outcome, assured. As I untangle strands of vain longings and false hopes, God teaches me the signs for wonder, love, compassion, and peace, and we use them to order another drink. She sips through a paper straw.

I lean across the table to dab dried blood off her chin. My dampened handkerchief gathers the red and transforms into bolts and bolts and bolts of satin, the kind they use for lining coffins.

“I wish I could die innocent,” I say, gazing at God’s mangled face. I will always watch this face and try to wipe the blood away. But I will not die innocent.

God nods. “You should forgive yourself. Dying forgiven is better than dying innocent anyway.” She touches her chest and then mine, and we wait, knowing the music will eventually begin again.

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Me:      Sticks, stones, and silence. Dark beer, mirrors, paint, and blackberries.

(God, you know I’d name you, but you’re not a thing.

You’re a puzzle I will never solve.)

God:    Feathers and fur. Fire and ice. Darkness and light when they shatter.

(I would say sacrifice, but you always get that wrong, so never mind.

It’s a thing, though. I assure you, it’s a thing.)

Me:      Clean floors and bike rides. Threatening skies. Gnarled trees. Honesty.

(I don’t mind a little sacrifice, here and there. It adds texture.

It helps me see you. That might be good.)

God:    Dogs. Horses. Cats. Earthworms. Birds. All birds. I love birds.

Birds eat earthworms. Cats eat birds. It’s all so tragically beautiful.

And chickens eat anything—even weaker chickens.

Me:      Oh my God! Why do you always ruin things?

This isn’t fun. I don’t want to play anymore. You’re disgusting.

(God lets out a loud guffaw. Tears run down the wizened cheeks.)

God:    Bone of my bone. Flesh of my flesh. The earth is my body, broken.

Like I said, you get a lot of things wrong. Especially sacrifice. And loss.

Hunger has a purpose, darling. Your uneasiness is holy.

Me:      If holiness exists, it’s overrated. I don’t want to be holy.

You make me question everything all the time.

So, either it’s all holy or nothing is.

God:    Agreed. Now, let’s get back to our favorite things.

Me:      There’s no going back.

God:    Chubby babies. Comets. Black people swimming in blue water. You.

Our eyes lock. I’m injured. Healed. Hungry and full. Something, nothing, holy, profane, resplendent with promise, soon to die. I throw my arm over God’s burly shoulder. We walk upright, eyes forward, leaning into the wind. A lot of our favorite things are blowing by.

Me:      Not a big fan of wind.

God:    Not sure which things to chase after?

Me:      Exactly.

Road Rage

When I’m driving around, sometimes a line pops into my head and I think it deserves a whole poem. Like this little phrase earlier today: The exquisite pain of knowing… The chances of remembering it for long were slim, so as I negotiated the traffic, I repeated it over and over, even though I didn’t think I was in pain. I was, instead, enraged.

The roads were terrible; people were driving stupid. It’s election day and as usual, my beloved state has gone to the highest bidders. Good, honest people ran against paranoia and lost. I knew I was angry, but when God tapped me on the shoulder I jerked the wheel and yelled, “Fuck you, God.” This surprised us both.

I’m home now but there’s no poem waiting for me. God made a hasty exit at a red light. Fine with me. Who needs any kind of God riding along, let alone a misrepresented, passive one?

To ward off a potential return, I put my fingers in my ears and sing la la la la la. I think of people who don’t love me and hate them for it. And then I retract the hate because I don’t want to be loved anyway. I’m weary of it all. I make herbal tea and wait for the end.

“Finished?” God asks, in a quiet, almost tender voice.

“Yeah,” I say. “You?”

“Oh, I’ve been finished for a very long time.”

“Did you quit or were you fired?” I’m still feeling a little hostile, but I push a slice of sourdough toast toward God. Breaking bread together might help.

“Technically, I was finished before I started,” God says, and takes a bite of the toast.

I make a face, hoping to signal that I don’t like these cryptic answers.

God also makes a face. “There’s something wrong with this toast. It’s bitter.”

“Well, why don’t you whip out your magic wand and fix it?”

God smiles. “Because as I said, I’m done. I turned in my wand so we could be friends. Maybe you should feed this to your pigs.”

“We’re going to eat those pigs someday,” I say.

“I doubt it,” God says. “But good on you for trying.”

The snow continues, and visibility is limited. There will be anger, anxiety, and accidents throughout the day. Night will fall and bring a temporary peace. This moment will be the last for some. The first for others.

God remains soft and circular. I am linear and limited, and I realize that this is the knowing that brings the exquisite pain.

No worries, I whisper to myself. You’re tough. And you can always make more bread. This isn’t true, but God doesn’t contradict me. For that, I am grateful.

The Eyes of Your Eyes

On the First Day, God said “I am a three-headed monster, a four-toed sloth, five stars, seven heavens, and fifty ways to leave your lover. I am without guile in my slinky nighty and seductive poses. There’s little doubt what I want. And no question I will get it.”

And as soon as I could, I responded.

 “Wow! Is there anything I can do for you?” I may have seemed a little obsequious and I was afraid it was too late.

“Relax,” God said. “You don’t have to sign up—the long arm of evolution conscripted you before time. You’re conscious of being conscious, but you’re distracted by abstractions of yourself. Let me ask you this: Will the eyes of your eyes stay open even as it appears there is nothing left to see?”

Will the eyes of my eyes stay open?

“Probably not,” I confessed. “I don’t even know if they’re open now.” I felt pathetic admitting this, but with God, it’s better to be honest than make promises you can’t keep.

“Do you know what I’ll say on the Last Day?” God asked.

I shook my head.

“Hello, gorgeous,” God said. “I’ll say hello gorgeous. I’ll say hello elements. Hello reformation. Hello darkness. Hello light. I’ll tell myself who I AM again. For your sake. And for mine.”

“And when, exactly, will that be?” I asked, thinking it would be nice to be ready.

God looked at me with sympathy. “Well, for me, it’s Now. And always. First and last are the same to me. But for you, it’s indeterminate. You can decide or it will be decided.”

“But couldn’t you give me a hint?” I begged. “I want to look my best.”

“That’s the spirit!” God exclaimed, beaming. “Look your best.”

Parasites

In the murky gloom of predawn, I consider parasites. Parasites deplete but do not replenish. The host gains nothing and in most cases incurs harm or loss. Given the lopsided nature of this arrangement, most hosts do not choose to be hosts. But there are some who willingly agree to these sometimes-temporary sometimes-deadly conditions. Parents, for example. Women during pregnancy. And God.

“I love a cheerful giver,” The Ultimate Host says. “So I try to live up to my own standards.”

“I appreciate that,” parasitic me says as I sidle up for a hug. It’s good to be grateful. Hosts are not easily replaced.

And I’m welcomed as I knew I would be. The lap of Ultimate Host is warm, innards glowing with love, her earth resplendent with abundance and beauty. I take heart because her planetary systems continue to spin, even as humans blithely carry on with their deadly extractions. She offers me hot chocolate and ginger snaps. I snuggle in.

“I think you’re oversimplifying your equations, honey,” Ultimate Host says.

I make an indeterminant noise and burrow in further.

“Of course, there are givers and takers in any given moment,” Ultimate Host continues. “But it goes far beyond the physical realm. If you weren’t on my lap right now, I’d be missing something. I’d be sad.”

“So, by taking warmth and comfort from you, I’m giving you something?”

“Yes,” Ultimate Host says. “Long ago, I chose to let creation matter to me.”

“That makes no sense,” I protest. “You’re beyond time and space, sufficient unto yourself.”

“It may seem that way, but I’m willingly defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice.” God pauses, then adds, “And you exist in my image, defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice. You are both parasite and host.”

Ultimate Host wraps parasitic me in the finery of being alive. After a moment, in a firm voice, she says, “So what are you?”

Reluctantly, I say what I know she wants to hear. “I am both parasite and host. I am defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice.”

As daylight arrives, a gunshot startles me. It’s hunting season.

“I didn’t ask to be an omnivore,” I tell God as I get dressed.

“I know,” God says. “And I didn’t ask to be God.” I wonder if the bullet hit home and if the resulting meat will be eaten with thanks. I wonder about weapons and butchering and factory chickens, evil and good, taking and giving. I put on my down vest and head out to feed the piglets. They will be ecstatic. I have homegrown carrots to offer.

From Whence We Came

Almost every day, God and I sit in a ratty blue recliner angled toward the window and sip beer. God expects me to hold still and listen. I try, but it seems nonsensical—an inefficient and unreasonable request.

Then I remind myself that efficiency isn’t the only road to success and not everything worthwhile is reasonable. The ability to reason is one ingredient in the soup that defines us, but it’s not the entire recipe. There’s sausage, kale, and wonderment. There’s an extravagance in creation that can’t be explained. Abstract thought and scientific inquiry may be the pinnacles of evolution, but pinnacles need foundations. Humans rationalize cruelty as readily as they eat that second donut.

“Working on some interesting similes and metaphors this morning, aren’t we?” God teases, sliding from chair to mirror to window to bird, sashaying to music I can barely hear.

“I’m thinking about foibles and do-overs,” I answer, happy that God seems loose and crazy today. “Could I have the last ten minutes back? I went down the wrong rabbit hole.”

“Nope,” God says. “Why do you even bother to ask? You know better.”

“No, I don’t,” I say, gleeful and untethered. “YOU know better.”

God winks and pulls me out of the chair. We do a four-pig jig creaking around the room in old bodies. We dance straight through the newly purple wall and fall, barriers breaking like bones.

I am blissfully unaware of dinosaurs, dodos, and all the hapless creatures currently facing extinction before they even have a name. They can all be Adam. They can all be Eve. I love them fiercely, but I can’t save them. I can’t even save myself (and truthfully, I don’t want to).

God’s reading glasses fly off while we’re cavorting. They shatter against the edge of a light green piece of granite I keep nearby for thermal mass, and small pieces fly everywhere. But no worries. The dangerous shards gather themselves into a coarse form of collective compassion, willing to return to the fire from whence they came. The fire from whence we all came. The fire to which we will all return.

“Sorry about your glasses,” I say. “I could read to you until they’re fixed if you’d like.”

“I’d like that very much,” God says.

“Do you mind if I start in the middle?” I ask. “I’ve already read the first chapters.”

“Not at all,” God says. “I suspect I know the plot.”

“I’m sure that’s true,” I say, oddly defensive. “But the descriptions are spectacular. And the details matter.”

“Yes, they do,” God agrees. “They really do.”

Balance

God was clipping her nails this morning and a luminescent fragment the shape of a crescent moon landed in the backyard: a beautiful asteroid, a source of light, the end of the raspberries.

 My entire garden is now filled with holy DNA. If this were a crime show, I could easily make a positive identification, but would there be a conviction? Even with humans, that’s never a sure thing. With God, highly unlikely.

“Sorry about that,” God says as she lifts the massive sliver of fingernail from earth and tosses it into the cosmos. “Careless of me to clip so close.”

“You could’ve wiped me out,” I say in an accusatory tone. “I can’t handle these jagged leavings and dangerous castings off.”

“I said I was sorry.” God can be a little defensive sometimes. She pauses, then adds. “Ah, c’mere. You don’t look so good.”

“Yeah, I’m not feeling all that well,” I admit as I crawl into the downy nest that God and I have created for the coming hibernation.

“Me neither,” God says with a sniffle. “Probably just a cold, but with all the upheaval, it’s hard to know for sure.”

“Isn’t it peculiar that before execution, the prisoner can choose a last meal?” I ask as we snuggle in. I ignore God’s quizzical look and continue. “So, what would you order?”

God is silent for a minute, then asks, “Sometimes, you’d like to kill me off, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah,” I admit. “You’re precarious and whimsical. Inscrutable and endless. I need something easier. Less promise. More substance.”

Again, silence. Then, “I’d have nuts and berries mostly. Goat cheese. A little pasta. And three or four stiff drinks. White Russians, maybe.”

I whack God with a roll of political flyers from the recycle pile and offer her a megadose of vitamin C. She flinches dramatically, smiles, and takes two of the chewable tablets.

“How ‘bout a siesta?” she asks.

I shake my head. “You go ahead. I’ve got to transplant the rhubarb and that poor little pine tree.”

“Oh, good grief,” God says. “Can’t you leave well enough alone?”

The pine tree is a sore subject. I’ve moved it four times because I keep changing the layout of the garden and it’s in the way again. I want it to thrive but only where I want it to thrive.

To my chagrin, I start to cry a little. “I’m tired of everything,” I say. There’s a catch in my voice. “Especially myself.”

“I know, honey,” God says. “That’s why a little nap is such a good idea.”

Hedged Bets

“I had to invent death because none of you hold still long enough to sort out what matters,” God told me this morning as I rushed around, distracted, getting ready for a demanding day.

“Well, that sounds vindictive,” I said. The toast was burned, and I’d just poured sour cream in my coffee.  “Inventing death might be creative, but I assume you’re aware that the living prefer to stay alive.”

“I know,” God admitted. “I haven’t worked out all the kinks yet, but I have good intentions.”

The Subdivisions of God began their own conversation. The Source of Transformation looked down at her hands. “I’m not proud of causing so much fear,” she admitted to the others. “And such grief.”

Liquid God spoke from the banks of the drought-reduced river. “It is in sorrow and weakness they find their way,” he said. “But it’s hard to accept drying  up, having less to offer.”

God the Rodeo tried to sell everyone tickets, promising rides on the bucking broncs, but the Rest of God refused. “I’m sick and tired of the cacophony,” she said, her voice deep and mountainous, her presence profoundly still.

I wanted the others to go away. I wanted only her.

“See?” God said, merging back into Oneness.

“No, I don’t see,” I protested. “Being surrounded by peace is different than being dead.”

“Is it?” God asked. “How would you know?”

“Just a hunch.” I shrugged. Then I reached into my pocket and pulled out a fat roll of rodeo tickets. “Hedging my bets,” I admitted with a sheepish grin.

The corral gate swung open, and God the Rodeo raced toward me on a shiny black stallion. “Let’s go, pardner!” he hollered.

I ran toward him, and just like in the movies, God reached down and swung me up on the back of the sweaty horse. I wrapped my arms tight around his lean waist, and together, we galloped madly toward what we knew was the setting sun.

To my astonishment, I saw the Rest of God ahead, clearing away debris from the flood. And Liquid God had pooled up so we could quench our thirst. The surface of the water was so smooth there was no difference between my reflection and my face.

With reverence, we dismounted and kneeled to drink.

Holy Preppering

The question of what to believe and what to believe in has plagued humans since consciousness seeped into our thick skulls and we uttered our first Why? So many ways to explain what happens, what matters, and how things are related: Science, sorcery, nature, love, revenge, big bangs, money, freedom, justice, magic, self, country, and a wide variety of gurus, presidents, and Gods; it boggles the evolved mind.

When things don’t go our way, we also ask Why not? We assign culpability for painful, scary, disappointing events. Awful things must be someone’s fault: the failings of the various Gods, the devil’s doing, the stupidity of our fellow humans. It’s comforting to blame.

But such attributions are simplistic and often wrong. Absolutes are always nuanced. We naively pit cause and effect against chance because for a species of meaning-makers, meaninglessness is terrifying.

“Yes,” God agrees cheerfully. “It’s astonishing what humans think up to believe in. Accepting meaninglessness, ever-evolving truth, or limited comprehension is tough.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” I ask.

 God shrugs.

Recently, I had a brief encounter with a bona fide Doomsday Prepper. Talk about meaning-makers! Preppers believe fervently that a specific global disaster is imminent, and they enjoy actively preparing for it, honing their skills to endure against the odds, spinning conspiracy theories late into the night.

They hoard food, toilet paper, and usually, weapons. They have generators, animals, flour grinders, and secret stashes of who knows what else. If they are rich, they are building biodomes where they can live once the rest of the earth is uninhabitable.

Generally, they’ve formed God in their own image. This God wants them to have supplies and ammunition. This God wants them ready. This God wants them to survive.

“That’s so sad,” God says. “So isolating. Devastation around every corner. Enemies on every horizon.”

“I know,” I agree. “And it’s likely self-fulfilling.”

“Maybe,” God says. “But what matters is who you’re prepping to share with and who you’re prepping to kill.”

My heart sinks. “Well, that’s easy. We share with those who are like us and kill those who are not. And we kill anyone who threatens our loved ones or our supplies.”

 God nods. “It takes an enormous amount of prepping to be ready to love your enemies.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” I snap, crossing my arms.

“Oh, I think you do,” God says patiently.

“Nice chatting,” I say, backing away. “But I have things to take care of.”

“Going to order another crate of toilet paper?” God asks with a grin.

“Yes,” I admit. “But I’m planning to share the outhouse with anyone who needs it.”

It’s Everything but God

It’s everything but God this morning. My eyes are looking straight ahead, my ears tuned to my own frequency. My logical mind is busy with the mundanity and indignities of life.

If God were a little more forceful, a tad more insistent, I might be more respectful and self-disciplined, but she’s soft as down plucked without permission. Conforming and accommodating. Groveling like a beaten dog.

 I’d like to see some bared fangs. Some absolutes. I’d like to see the enemies of God cut down and the friends of God elevated to their rightful places.

 “Excuse me,” Meek God says. “But if you don’t mind my saying so, you’re a fool to think that’s what you’d like.”

In my miniscule corner of this nondescript town in this big state tucked into a greedy, powerful nation flattened on the face of this round little planet floating along in an increasingly cluttered stratosphere, the lights are on, the refrigerator is humming, and God has slipped in. But I am not reassured. I am not settled.

“Good,” Soft God says. “You should be neither.”

Unlove is flooding the lower elevations of what was once called civil society. I would like the steel-toed boots of an angry God to stomp out the wildfires of hate and wipe the sneer off the cocky faces of the very, very rich.

“Do you have a cold washrag I could put over my eyes?” God asks in a weak voice. “I’m feeling a migraine coming on.”

I help her lie down on the long orange couch. We both know it isn’t a migraine.

My children have futures. I have a past. We still have choices. This pale, eternal God has nothing. The patience required of omnipotence is infinite and painful.

I know this because God recuperates at my place sometimes. Even if all I do is sit or distract myself with idle bemoanings, I manage to offer a modicum of shelter and some nourishment.

For instance, I won a huckleberry pie at a political gathering last night. When God’s feeling a little better, I’ll share it. And then we’ll move into this day. Me, living as deliberately as possible. God, well. God. Elusive. Loving. An ever-mutating virus, a long-suffering containment, the final cure.

“Sounds like a plan,” God says from deep within my history and my compelling but scattered intentions. She pats my cheek as if I were a caring child or a faithful nurse. And for that brief moment, I am both.