Be Not Afraid, or Whatever

By | 3 February 2024

God’s worst angel, smoking behind the servo
again. Could drop a lit redhead into a gas puddle
and watch the whole afternoon open up
like a white flower. Kaboom. Everyone
gets to go home early. It’s 2008;
he’s on the annunciation beat. Tough work—
who wants a kid in these conditions? Last year
a truck tore the roof off the station and no one
has bothered to fix it. Metal struts cut up
the sky, like a cross left standing in a blast zone.
Rain falls in people’s hair, their tanks. And yes,
the angel is in my hometown: red dirt, population
under six thousand, expensive petrol. I know
what you’re thinking—he’s here for me, this is
a confessional. He’s here for some girl I knew,
this is a bit of stolen valour. The angel rolls a sneaker
against the slope of blood-coloured earth
that leans down to the pumps. Actually, he’s here
to steal cheap pregnancy tests from the IGA.
No one believes him these days, when he tells them:
buy bibs. Or says the Holy Ghost will come
on you.
That’s in the New International Version.
Honest! A girl threw coffee at him about it, last time.
So: tests. A pack of five, slipped right off the shelf.
Why the cheap ones? Well, optics are everything
and poverty’s a good look on God. Widow’s mite.
Bethlehem hay. $14.95 Clearblue™
rapid indicator. Could just lob one through a window
or leave one under a pillow—skip the whole
wet scene. Rain shrouds the grass, the heads
bent over pumps. The angel thinks shroud
and means burial clothes. What’s a swaddle if not
the infant of a winding cloth? What did he say to Mary
if not you are going to suffer and suffer and suffer.
You are going to bring a baby into a terrible world.
You are going to know the exact weight
of his corpse.
What does he say to Mary if not
hey, do you want a cigarette? It might be your last,
for a little bit.

And yes, the angel sees me walking home
from school, huddled under the parcel of books
on my back. We have nothing for each other today—
my huge ambivalence for children, his dislike
of hymns and onionskin. Eighty kilos. That’s average
for a 33-year-old male. A little less if he hasn’t eaten
a few days. This year, my life feels thin
as a psalm. I have chosen what to carry. And yes,
the angel throws me the whole pack, anyway.

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