the last time I spoke to God
I was eight years old and had just
said a final goodbye to
my eighty-seven-year-old great-grandmother
and I was reading books /about stars
and numbers etched on forearms    /about the devil’s arithmetic
alone in my room at bedtime
the walls bulged out and bent in
as the house breathed, and I lay
in its belly looking up at the ribs     /like Jonah
inside of that whale
he tried to run away from God but
I turned and faced him, asked the darkness
how could you
let them kill in your name
allow them to die /in vain     /in numbers unimaginable
/in melting pain
they believed in you, that you
had chosen them for your own next
of kin—yet you saw the lists
and the chimneys and did nothing. didn’t you know
family keeps its promises
no matter the distance?
family’s supposed to love and even
when I try to run away from myself, blood calls
me back and sends postcards sometimes to say hello

but me and God
we haven’t spoken in a long time
since that night
he never got back to me
/now I’ve got the Devil’s number
on speed-dial cause he’s a hell

of a lot easier to reach from this particular corner of the earth

at eight I already loved to study maps, tracing
the blue of rivers like veins
counting out miles on road-trips
I knew that if Heaven existed, somewhere
/beyond the top bunk of my bunkbed and the
glow-in-the dark stars stuck on the ceiling
/between the North Pole and the far side of Tatooine
if Heaven existed, my cousins wouldn’t be
permitted there
not according to my father’s born religion
or my best friend’s born-again faith
and much as I wanted to see Nana again someday, to
know a life waited beyond stars
and death would never be as lonely
as Jonah was, my cousins’ blood called out
to me:       Injustice runs thicker /than all the rivers you will ever cross

the last time God answered my call
I laid out the facts and figures
for him, alone in my bedroom—nobody would believe me now
if I said
he listened, but he did
faced with such unassailable eight-year-old logic, my foundation of
faith as yet unshaken      /by planes crumpling
towers like pillars of bitter salt    /by floods
besieging ark-stadiums
/by my father’s voice trembling through verses
at his brother’s wake–before all that
I spoke, and God heard my case
built with digits of evidence like six million
and 1939 and my three cousins

I told him it wasn’t personal but
the numbers just didn’t add up
according to my religious calculus, and there
wasn’t enough room on that bunkbed
for all of his angels to dance
there wasn’t enough room in my heart for
him, because I had so many
other things to fill its holes with: maps and Lego pieces     friendship bracelets
postcards and phone numbers of distant family members
even then I was full
already telling my own stories
to beat the Devil at his lying game, and I was already
at eight years old prepared to     /say goodbye
/change my address
so God would have to leave, grow up
and search for his true name alone, without me.

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