A Prose Poem by Mackenzie Arnold
“Beloved,” he spoke, with eyes that looked to me and then to the black bible open in his hands so that he could taste the word of God in his mouth again. “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. First Peter. Chapter Two. Verse Eleven.” He had to part his jaw like a gasp, teeth grazing bottom lip, tongue rolling to form the words, “passions of the flesh.” I thought they sounded so romantic until it was my flesh that he wanted.
Afterwards I burned my own bible, and I stayed to watch the ashes stir until I realized that they must have done the same at the end of all the witch trials. The fire was already out, but tears fell from my eyes anyways and so I cried in bitter irony. I imagined they were holy water—the tears—and as they ran down my cheeks I parted my lips so that they could wash his hypocrisy from my tongue.
I realized too late that it was not God I wanted to burn, but the one who liked the taste of God’s words in his mouth—if only to trick himself into thinking that he was Divine.
I never thought much about religion as a child. Despite growing up just outside of Dallas, Texas, where mega-churches and celebrity pastors reign supreme, I remained largely untouched by the dogma of these institutions because my family simply didn’t go to church. When I began high school at a private Christian academy though, I was suddenly plunged into a very suffocating environment that made it very apparent that my existence as a girl, and any form of feminine sexuality, was wrong.