Liz N. Clift holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Iowa State University. Her poetry has
appeared or is forthcoming in Anderbo.com, RATTLE, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Triggerfish Critical
Review, The MacGuffin, and others. She lives in Colorado. Find her on Twitter:
It is a Preacher’s Kid I fall in love with
at nineteen, both of us atheist and lonely
for things we can’t name, but can escape from
for an hour by making out on the hard wooden
desk chair in my college dorm and for now, love feels like snow angels—
something we can throw ourselves into and by working at it just a bit
make an impression of something. At twenty-one
he’ll be engaged and enrolled in seminary,
because he seeks his father’s faith, and try as he might
he won’t find faith in the complete works
of C. S. Lewis or in lecture halls and after his fiancé aborts
their baby, he’ll drop out of seminary and swear he never believed
in God, but if there were a god he’d be the homeless man with cloudy
eyes who begs for change outside a Gamestop, who once told
the Preacher’s Kid You young, you stupid, you’ll get over it,
whatever’s wrong. At twenty-three the PK’ll be married, but not
to the woman he’d proposed to at twenty-one.
He’ll marry her for health insurance,
because a tumor, like a child, grows against his abs.
Six months later, before the insurance even kicks in,
they’ll divorce and he’ll swear off believing in love
for at least the third time since we met, and off girls named
after cities or weather or who color their hair
like rainbows. At twenty-twenty five he’ll ask me
to marry him and say we could live in a church attic
in Phoenix where he works security detail,
and I’ll imagine white marble angels rising into the night,
front-lit with bright halogens, bats swarming from a belfry
at dusk and catching whatever insects flit through Phoenix’s streetlights.
The church in my mind is surrounded by an iron fence to keep out
the huddled masses, and there are three locks on each door.
Consider it, he’ll say, because I’ll laugh and our voices will carry
across satellites, like ghosts, a miracle, and I’ll wonder
if the church holds spirits and what it would be like
to live with this Preacher’s Kid, to call him my husband,
in a city growing gardens of glass through rivers of asphalt,
where summer storms leave layers of dust, even inside houses.
But for now, we’re nineteen, and the world is at our fingertips
and our fingertips trace each other’s collarbones and faces
and rake through hair and outside it is snowing even though it’s Spring Break
and flakes are melting off our eyelashes, weighting our sweaters,
anchoring us to the present. A pool of water forms
around our shoes, and try as we might, we can’t absorb each other.