I went to church by myself the other day after having given up
on God. I swear the light falling through the stained glass
looked like your initials—it even sounded like your voice
in the not so secret dark when you’d talk me through pain
the same way rain falls on a driveway on a Friday afternoon
when we were still young enough to believe that a history
together was possible, and I believed again that the people I lost
and disappointed in this life could come back to me.
But that’s not their responsibility—to come back for me, I mean.
I’m trying to be selfish and selfless at the same time,
and it looks like a tired man playing rock covers on stage
at a dive bar somewhere in Hurst, Illinois begging the crowd
to clap, and they can barely find a few dollars for another drink.
I’ve been there, and I’m still there. You see, one time
you guided me beyond this life and what I thought was possible—
and we can only talk about our bodies and the holes in them
that the rain passes through and surrounds us where we stand.
I lie about us to myself now for the lack of a past.
The past doesn’t look like much—a few train cars stalled
on the tracks while the livestock sleep inside on beds of hay
drinking up the little prayers of moonlight falling through the grate.
However, we did believe in what the other wanted—
but we didn’t know what to do with it. When it finally came
time to believe, all of the things we had faith in went out
like flicking the light switch on only to be surprised by darkness.
is the author of Scared Violent Like Horses (Milkweed Editions, 2019), which won the Jake Adam York Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2015, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, and TriQuarterly. John is the 2016 winner of The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry. He received his MFA from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.