Brianna is praying for me
and teaching her students about how
god lives in these poems
like a small colorful thing lives in the dirt.
When you see the flash of blue, yellow, and red
disappear into a hole in the dirt of Puerto Vallarta
that’s what it’s like,
you get on your knees
and put one eye to the ground
no matter who is watching.
She says that god loves me so much
and it makes me cry by the bright blue swimming pool
while little boys in goggles puff their chests
at each other and scream
I’m the bad guy! No I’m the bad guy!
Then I’m the good guy!
Little boys already rumbling toward
the men they will become
sighing the heart of the world or the gut.
No one young talks about god anymore, it’s all science
and what proof do you have
that lonely pools blue for the sky,
that little boys thrash into the men they will become
saying, This half is yours! From here to here!
I watch my grandfather light his cigar
and the whole world tilts
and men undo into boys.
He is young again, and cool, with the same sadness
in his blue eyes, saying nothing
as usual, just remembering the floorboards of the barn
at a dance the priest told him not to go to
if he wanted to get confirmed,
the cigar’s smoke thick and soft
as skin. What proof do you have
that cigar smoke is like skin,
that god lives in poems like something bright
you thought you saw
disappearing into the dirt.
What proof do you have for what
you have loved? Brianna is praying for me,
we used to play ping pong at the university
and talk about the ways we
fall short of grace, the way grace
brushed her belly while she swam
in the night at the place she loved,
and how our brains grow around themselves,
around what we fear
so when we don’t fear anymore
there is the shape of the fear there
begging to be filled, almost delirious
with the desire to be filled,
and sometimes she would win
and sometimes I would
and now she is praying for me across the country
and I am beside a swimming pool
asking for courage into the air.
What proof do you have
that anything cares for your courage?
What proof do you have?
Chelsey Weber-Smith is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia’s MFA program in poetry. She also writes country music and rambles around the United States. She has written and self-published two chapbooks, a travel memoir, and two full-length folk/country albums, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been published in Transom, Matter, the James Franco Review, and Miracle Monocle, and is forthcoming in BOAAT. She currently lives in Seattle.