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06. As Far As the East Is from the (Navel to the) West

by Levi The Poet


I can't remember when you became a hypothetical. I still talk to the sky and the black backs of my eyelids, but it's been some time since your son transitioned from person to proposition.

I keep conjuring his name up over my wife at night, like a seance. The ghost still calms her nerves, so I keep praying while I wonder what I'll say when I run out of hat tricks and smoke bombs. I keep disappearing behind the distractions. We both know how well I procrastinate, so the night that I finally began to fear whether or not I'd lost my faith... I thought it was too late.

I wrote down the confession like a hook for a song: "When I stopped believing in God, I blamed it on him, and thought, 'well, if this is what you want...'"

Heavenly Father, when the fathers tried to exorcise the demons from my father they simply spoke back and begged for their medication, and I finally believed in the gift of tongues. I heard him speak out in one legion of them while the comfortable line between oppression and possession collapsed as disconcerting as your scribbles in the sand to a man who is still cutting his teeth on forgiveness, unable to let go of the stones making their way through the backs of his hands for all of the stubbornness in his grip and the way that even his fists fold back in upon themselves.

I can't touch my toes to the mirage. If the ground is a foundation it is one evasive facade. I got lost and the only way that I could talk to God was through profanity and absolutely nothing and maybe that's what he was going for all along.

We're tired of floating. Tired of constantly examining motive. Tired of ascribing it. Tired of acting like we know. It's exhausting – what if we don't? Tired of the circle. Tired of equating confirmation with affirmation.

Applause is a poor god.

It's dark inside of my stomach, bent, shoving my head out the lower half of my back and collapsing beneath the weight of what it all looks from here. I heard the fear, heard the fear, heard the fear, know what fear and trembling looks like – we're working it out. Isn't that a part of the process? It's no joke.

Sometimes the bride slips out the back but sometimes the spirit flees.

Sometimes it's dissension and sometimes it's prophecy.

Sometimes it's good, old fashioned adultery, but if conquest is franchised as love for long enough, then the latter becomes the trigger for your panic attack. I don't know how to get the childlikeness back, and if salvation is contingent on a faith like that – where are the waterfalls? Where's the boy down to backflip into the river? Maybe the current shifted, maybe the color's different, but


and I recognize it because


For every conclusion posited as a question, resurrection haunts like a shadow I can't escape, looming in what I could have sworn was warmth melting ice before whatever it became. I was a son – I was a son – you told me that once, but it's amazing how petrified portions of the heart start to see fingers like claws and water like poison and grace like the opposite flowing indifferent through your lukewarm bloodstream, cooling and clotting and cutting branches from the tree.

Am I losing you? Have you lost me?

Is there such a thing?

Heavenly Father, I have no interest in selling doves for the market. Flip the tables. Braid the rope. Taper the whip.

Let me speak.

Are we salesmen or sons? Are our positions contingent on commissions and brand loyalty?

I mistook kingdom for empire.
Salvation for rapture.
Grace for escape.
Mission for capture.
I mistook mercy for license.
Family for uniform.
Gift for owed.
Cross for sword.

Heavenly Father, it's all a shot across the bow and I'm aware that it's not fair to throw the whole body out but can we scuff up the navel? Cut eyes with thrones umbilical as control as though we forced ourselves from the womb?

Keep pushing me down. Keep forgiving.

New life is death and they call it that for a reason. The birth canal is filthy and beautiful. You'll get out. I've never had more faith in that than now.

I know you don't recognize your reflection.

I know you'd have hated who you've become and I know you hate who you were so there's no use in being anywhere other than present.

I know it's torture.

I know that you make it through.

I know that you don't believe it. I know that you don't have to.

I will. We will.

I know that

there are cancer and death and indifference acting out on the stage,
and playwrights monetizing god from the machine.

I know I made a crane of my own, I'm sorry.

I poured the concrete and deemed it determined from eternity past
as if that were
justification enough for
how harsh my love had become.

(There is a word for those who call evil good. For what it's worth, I've got a verse for that.)

I don’t know what to do with the inconsistencies beyond an apology,
acknowledging that
cruciform certitude is easily abused,
and there’s no better shape for us to use as a scepter.

But a specter of truth – like a phantom limb – still itches in my memories
like a flash in a photo booth that leaves light afloat in its wake.

I don't know what to say. Say it.

"I don't know what to say."

Say it.

"I've got nothing to say and no direction to give," and my friends said,
"that's perfect - tell it exactly how it is."

I don't know what to say.

Say it.

But I still hear echoes that can only exist in empty places,
and whether they are hearts or tombs,
if the ghost that I all but gave up to his grave can leave it behind,
well, I am shaped exactly like the vacancy signs
advertising spaces that still need residence.

I thought that God could only exist in sonnets and villanelles,
but you should see their freeform.

I hope that my Jesus is bigger than all of my heresy, but before you agree, I hope that yours is, too.

Maybe you and I could talk before we write one another off?

Maybe we could both be quiet.

Maybe we could decrease or maybe we could rally our likeminded and fight it.

Maybe we could broadcast our dissent.

Maybe it will hurt.
Maybe it will heal.
Maybe it with mar but
Maybe it will mend.

Maybe I don't have every answer I thought I did but, God!

Damn them, I still have You.




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