This is a poem I wrote in 1977 and recently revised. It reminds me how suspicious I have been all of my life about any religion that tells us we must earn the worthiness and perfection that we inherited at birth, and that can never be tarnished.

I am enough, and you are enough, just as we are. I openly share my family’s suicidal tendencies (which include two deceased first cousins) because I want no one else to fall into this well of hopelessness. We already have all the power we need to live a full and meaningful life. But the stillness within is where it must be sought. God is not “out there,” for every breath we take is one She breathes into us, and all of the particles in our bodies are made of Him.

by day a pillar of fire flaps and smokes
from the Standard Oil Refinery flare stack
visible from the living room in Sugar Creek, MO
where my grandmother keeps photo albums
preserving me at age five

a dark headed woman out of focus
in the background is frozen
over-balanced in a cartwheel

in Claycomo her ghost frightens children
away from our tiny abandoned house
where she is trapped
her pale weary forehead bends repeatedly forward
against the cold barrel of a police riot shotgun

my father slumps over the toilet
in Kansas City bearing decades of self-blame
careful not to bleed on the carpet

beside him the soft tissue of the Living Bible
stands up in wrinkled furrows where
his red ink underscores have ploughed deeply,
highlighting every punishment he feels he is due
for failing to love well enough to save us all

©John Greenleaf-Maple 1977 rev 2/17

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