• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 06
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I’ll Remember This

I thought I saw Jesus, arm stretched high, head wrapped in a blue cloth as if he stole his mother’s robes and left her bare headed, gasping. The sun is turning the sky liquid and the sand into salt that scales my skin. Heat haze: look up, and the hope that rushes through me is the beginning of a bright, bright glory, filling my heart as if that Jesus has been put there just for me. I never believed in God before, but after the way I have learned to pull the trigger, after the shells I have scattered, after the dust I have blown across this once verdant land? I do.

I voted in 1999 and I marched in 2003. I had already enlisted and I hoped that the war wouldn’t last long enough for me to go to it. I grew up shooting holes in a beer can stuck on a post, trying to be better than my brothers, so I got my orders. Jesus, this place looks nothing like our yard.

I used to shoot and think about how one day I would bring peace. Save the people from the vultures and the dogs and the cheetahs, the sand flies are the worst: spies everywhere. Red ants don’t crawl; they scoot away from me, from the poppies that drop from me. In the desert the stillness is so eerie and I’ve counted seven bullet holes in me like eyes in a potato. I think I can see Jesus, waving me down.

Stop. Stop with the heat and the pale blue sky, a cathedral roof blown out over the earth. Make it stop, because it hurts. Is this what praying feels like? Soaring of a dark bird over distant hills, with no promise of return? Come back, my mother wrote me, over there is no place for girls.

Mother, I say. I get to the post, and the old bud can with the dark holes and the wire fence and the homestead. The red curtains flutter in the breeze: there is a breeze. And she is there waiting, like we just said goodbye. I remember her funeral, when I was last here.


I’ll Remember This

All of us standing around a fresh dug hole. Do you get worms in the desert? Close enough, I am close enough to wonder where Jesus has gone. Mother of –. Out here there is nothing but bitter, bitter salt, and sand.