A Space for Women of the World
Baptized face beneath a wash rag, he dunks me quickly in a large swimming pool, swift and voluntary indoctrination, a bragging right, sanctity. I am five years living. We have church in store fronts and hotel conference rooms from the west side to downtown. Life is conviction, fear, formed and folded into me. Daddy is the preacher man. The people sing and praise, worship invisible things, dance, gifted speak foreign tongues. I force a hard roll inside my mouth some Sundays yet the heaven mutter never falls out, so I crawl under a back row of vomit colored metal leg chairs and play with the other littles. Nights are after-sermon-sermons I fidget through, dozing off in the back den on top of nappy cognac carpet. Bookshelves and crates, I read all things stacked in messy living room corners. Text pile after piled text, metaphysical moral christian theology on dead trees. My parents are too smart for one book or one bible, though I read it front to back, to other people, as a bedtime story to brothers frightening small boys in a dim lit attic bedroom, sitting close on one bed for five bodies, bringing damnation to life.
Biology shows us how ribs cannot be pulled from man to woman. School is not a place for testaments or notions of hands shaping worlds in one week. Something inside me stopped listening to fathers and gods already, though I still have Sundays. The day my father takes a long bath and soaks in too much cologne, wears colorful shiny shoes and makes me iron his dress shirt, fumes of man fan up with the steam. We wake early to hear him talk over the radio, later we meet him at church, spending half the day playing with cousins in the back under those ugly chairs or sleeping in a slouch on top. When the drag out speech of black tradition subsides, I beg him for crumpled dollars in front of people because this way he never says no. These god days are the days I am more than a quiet girl with a scowl, coal black hair, who never wears name brand shoes or pierced earrings. On Sundays I am not alone in a corner with books, or public television, not being an outcast of the other even four sister-sister-brother-brother tribe. I am part of bigger things, things like universe and right, antiquity, answers for man about sun and sky. God is more than scripture or outer-space places where I think the heavens hang. He is relief, escape, excuse, a thing to keep feet from floating to the air between stars.
April Gibson is a recent MFA graduate. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Tidal Basin Review, Reverie, and The New Sound. April is an African-American native of Chicago’s south side, where she currently resides with her two sons.