Falling through the Hole of God
after Buddy Wakefield
I miss the bullseye when it comes to flirting with my eyes. Instead, my words become Cupid’s bullets. I too often squeezed between thighs trying to find something I didn’t know the name for. I’m more than slightly flamboyant. I sin a lot. I always excuse myself. How can you be a sinner in a Godless world? I get people drunk for a living. I’d rather show people how the light can make anything look beautiful, even the empty shot glass yearning for one more pour.
My roommate works third shift cranking out auto parts and troubleshooting bad-mouthed mechanics. He swears his sweat tastes like iron and grease. And alcohol. His boyfriend is a sociopath. He’s got all the symptoms: weaves elaborate lies like a writing spider’s web, borrows things without asking and never gives them back, sleeps in his car and loses his time in the city. The methamphetamines and/or heroin doesn’t help. I live in the apartment; my roommate’s boyfriend does not. The boyfriend complains. There’s an elephant in the room most nights and it hides in the grey stupor of his trembling eyes. His father died recently. There is no sign of apathy, or depression, or remorse. He just fiends for more. More drugs. More sleep. More money that was never his to keep. My roommate is my brother, and my brother is delusional. His boyfriend doesn’t love him. My brother doesn’t love his boyfriend, just needs him/ is terribly lonely /is an alcoholic every morning in order to fall asleep. Some nights, I actually consider praying. I actually consider lifting my voice into the empty night. I know it does no good to talk to the walls or the ceilings.
Heavenly father, please, purge my brother of his addiction. Lead him, like the stubborn mule he is, dirty with wreckage, a ghost ship in a crest of empty bottles, into the truth. I will murder his boyfriend with kindness and a cruel smile for the moment. Give me strength not to cut a bastard. Give me strength not to backhand the cruelness out of him and it fall into my soul. I have already committed the sin of hatred in my heart for him. Do not forgive me. It isn’t worth it if I can’t forgive myself for my own lack of courage to say the things I say to you, but in public and to closed ears.
Baptized in a dusting of cloud, I drive my car on I-40 East. I stare through the moonlight that greys the hollows between shadow and glow. I listen to a black man play the blues: the way blues was intended to be played. His guitar is low and solemn like a burnt church. It is here, I believe that suffering is the truth. The night mumbles its wispy static next to my ear. A cigarette smolders in a pitiful excuse for an ashtray. If there is such a thing as sin, how does it fill us when all we can feel is silence and emptiness from a Lord who will not speak? Am I a monster to doubt the holiness of our solitude? I’ve gotten dusty with darkness; raw from being spit out by circumstance. My headlights cut the corner, and glass glitters like frost on the road. The shards crumple like prayers under me. I remember why I am driving: to run away from everything – even myself – for a night.
I love too easily and none too wisely; perhaps, it is the sole reason why my heart feels so bruised. God is on sabbatical. Permanently. How do you lose something that was never yours to claim? We are too small, too petty, to see the letters of his name or the letters he writes us from beyond time’s grave. How to sin: you become an animal, a beast, filled with longing to fill the flesh no matter the consequence. The stratospheric high. The carnal, nightly frolic. The drowning, drowning. The alkaline taste of semen whetting sharp the lips. The red blood of another. The superior feeling of standing over the dying as though a man is god. God knows destruction is a
creative act. He is saving this, however, for last. He is so filled with holes now, you can see spaces between the stars.
When I was a child, I dreamed about a flower for four years. I had found it on a beach trip, under the hollow of a tree in the dark, humid space between sunset and shadow. I didn’t pluck it. I could have. Maybe there is some good in me still because, occasionally, I still dream of it. It had white fronds attached to a white arrowed petal. The stem was a dreamy green, near transparent. Almost nightly, I saw it. It haunted my dreams like the Holy Spirit haunts those who dream in tongues. My hand reached for it, not to pluck, but to lift the petal and feel. Years go by and I discover it is real: Dendrophylax lindenii. Ghost orchid. A marsh flower. Rare. Eerie and
fleeting. Sometimes, I feel like God is more of a grave than hole. And from the plot of His death, something grows.
I fill myself with a pleasant darkness most days. This way, my shadow is meager and willing to follow. I feel dirty under starlight. Dirty under a sun that blazes in a silence much like God’s. Dirty, dirty like Christ on his little brown mule. I keep a book of saints under my pillow to ward off the mental leprosy doubt can cause. Saint of the Traveler. Saint of the Pilot. Saint of the Suffering. Saint of the one-night stand. Saint of the river and its jagged cut. Saint of the hangover and its cures. Saint of all things that never come to pass. I could be a saint too if there was any faith left in me to care. I confess: I’d rather have a love for this world than faith in the possible next one.
Angels do exist. They currently, however, have things to tend to: the West Wind, the ocean tides, the miracle of a surviving statue in the midst of a tsunami. Angels do exist: we have just forgotten how to thank them. We have forgotten their names in exchange for doing the miracles ourselves.
What is my greatest sin? Giving too much love and not fearing the wreckage. Whether in the back of a car, or in a study lounge, or my own bed, I have given seed I did not want to sew. No? It is not a sin to love? Tell that to Christ. Tell that to all others who came in its name. They are all dead now. Dead then. Would be dead should they arise again. We murdered them because we are scared of it. Where is God’s love? It fell upon us time and time again like snow, and we trampled through it. Why do you think God has such a large hole? He tears a piece of himself off for us, and grows wider, deeper. His face is for the righteous and there are none of those to be
God is like a well we keep throwing a bucket into and having to descend deeper and deeper for water. Every time we drop a prayer, the fall feels like a thousand years before the faint splash. I get people drunk for a living. I also sell lottery tickets at a service station for a living. Both pay, but not nearly enough. I feel guilty once I get home because I remember the young black woman’s hands, holding her last three dollars, how I lingered too long in handing her the lottery ticket. We touched and I felt the pressure of our hands, the small iamb of pulse beneath our flesh. I didn’t steal from her, but I did. I didn’t feel her sadness, but I did. I didn’t think of hopelessness, but . . .
There are nights when my hands become candelabras, each fingertip a candle burning and wanting to warm the flesh of another body. There are nights without stars when the moon is so full and God so far that I get the urge to howl. I am no wolf. I am a sophisticated beast. The urge is still there though. I sometimes go to the creek, sit on the bench before it, and think of stumbling into the cold water to shock myself into beauty. No matter what lovers I choose, they end up desiring something else. Something more mundane. Something more like comfort and not like lust. The stars line their battlements and fire their rays down upon me while I gawk up at them. There are nights I feel so alone it is almost the purest feeling of being alive. We aren’t born twice; but, in the dimness of solitude, some realizations impregnate the mind to make a body numb and the shivers come from within like we are being delivered: smacked by the truth of our own wretchedness.
Whenever I make art that is when I feel what it is like to be God. Most art is never finished and, like the painter said, most art is never completed, simply abandoned.
In a Godless world, what need is there for sin? What need is there for guilt? There are still morals. There are still those who will cheat, lie, steal, steal a wife, steal innocence, steal life from our breathing chests. But, in a Godless world, where God is an endless hole in which one could free-fall forever, to sin isn’t the problem. It is how to sin wisely. It is why. If you must love, do so without restraint. If you must love, as imperfect as you are, do so knowing there are worse crimes to be damned for. If you must love, no matter the person, believe that it will be the hardest work set before you. If you must live and love in a Godless world, the worst sin is to love and not break yourself for another. God broke himself and we created him anew in our image. It was because he loved us, His imperfect masterpiece, His grand trivial pursuit, that he left us to our own destruction.
Amen, says the choir. Amen, says the mouth. Amen, rests the silence: our firmest infinite truth.
My essay was inspired primarily by Buddy Wakefield’s work, specifically his poem “Jean Heath” in which an elderly woman is on her death bed surrounded by people who only want to be beneficiaries of her dying and a young woman who sings for her before she leaves this life. I wanted my essay to sing on the same topic of suffering and living/death but want to explore one of his lines explicitly, in which my experience has impacted my thinking of holiness and man-made perspectives on divinity, that goes “There’s a hole in god and I’m not gonna fall down in there.” I have always believed doubt to be a beneficial element of faith and I decided to explore it in slanting light, dividing my essay into portions and scenes of suffering and doubt and how, maybe even without God, there is a chance that we can rely on this world and a kind of iridescent spiritual awareness in ourselves that, were we to be alone, we could only believe in ourselves and people who buoy us up in times of our more chiasmic loneliness.
Samuel J Fox is a non-binary, bisexual writer living in the Southern US. They/He is poetry editor at Bending Genres, a nonfiction reader for Homology Lit, and frequent columnist/reviewer at Five2One Magazine. They/He appears in many online/print journals as well as in dilapidated places, coffee houses, and graveyards, depending. They/He tweets (@samueljfox).