I know you’re a priest, but I’m not going to be a priest

Every step
is a protopian trek
through a jungle overgrown
with thick roots and poison leaves.

Yes, even the poisonous
cannot contain their self-interest.
Even the revolution
must surely bring oppression.

My advice to people
who are considering
becoming priests:
Be sure to wear clean underwear.
Be aware that not every priest is like you.
Don’t get into fights with other priests unless they deserve it.
Never be ashamed.
Only apologize to children.

I’m not some crazy
priest-hoarding freak
who is going out of his mind
with plans to destroy this world on a whim.

However, if that turns out to be the case, then I’m sorry, I was only kidding. I’m just kidding. Just kidding.

Here is a joke
I wrote in seminary,
by far my favorite joke,
the one that I always come back to:

“How do you think Jesus died?

Do you think he was hit in the head with a rock?

Do you think he was hit by a bus?

Do you think he was hit by lightning?

Do you think he was hit by a car?

Do you think he was hit by a train?

Do you think he was hit by lightning?

Do you think he was hit by a train?

Do you think he was hit by a train?
Do you think he was hit by a train?

Do you think he was hit by a train?
Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was hit by a train? Do you think he was? Do you? Do you?”

Get it?

I know you’re a priest, but I’m not going to be a priest

I Love You Like You Love Anyone Else

I never knew what I wanted,
beyond feeling relaxed,
but even that seemed at odds
with what nature desired for me.

Nature desired for me
a lot of silence
before causing my head
to swell uncontrollably.

“I love you, I love you,
I love you like you love anyone else,”
was my constant refrain.

My head remained so large
for such a long time,
so big that I constantly
woke to check that it was true.

But it wasn’t.

In that moment, I understood
that the truth was everywhere
and to see it required
no effort whatsoever.

I saw that the truth was true,
and could do nothing to help it.

“I don’t like this feeling
of simple truths,” I told
my mirror when he and I
met for breakfast yesterday,

“it’s not really my thing.”

“The feeling I’ve got now,
well, that’s my feeling,”
I told him. “It’s a true feeling
of feelings of correct ideas

“of true feelings
in a true world
that has feelings of
truth in the world.”

“Your mother told us that you wanted
to be a singer,” my mirror said.
“And a singer must always know
the true feeling of feelings.”

I raised my head in an attempt
to be kind and replied,

“I think I’ll have
a better time
with true feelings
if I am by myself.”

“But listen,
(and this is what it was)
it was that I didn’t know,
I didn’t know the feeling,”

“It felt like feeling
like everything was possible.
Like some things were
about to sort of happen.”

And some things did.

I made a move.

I Love You Like You Love Anyone Else

We were very much in love with the idea of being in a place that was really different from the rest

When we died
we went to Florida
and created a heaven
from orange peels
and costumes
discarded from Disney World.

In the off season,
we haunted Miami Beach,
ghosts among ghosts,
moldy parking garages
and half-flooded
apartment complexes.

In the summer,
you could drive down
the South Beach strip,
past the bodegas and dive bars, and discover
a world of color
and sex
and slow decay.

In the winter,
we pretended it snowed.

We were the weirdest group
we had ever seen.

We were like
a second family.

***

When we died in 2003,
the world was a different place. The Internet
was for the young.

We lived by codes
made up in Stanford
dorm rooms
over pizza and cheap beer.

We would go online.

We’d join a chat room.

We’d talk about the weather.

We’d talk about movies,
and our jobs,
and our jobs,
and our jobs.

Then we would get drunk
and pretend to fly
around the world.

The first place we went
was to the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art,

then we flew
across the country
to Washington D.C.,
to the National Endowment
for the Arts.

For a while we were in Italy,
and for a while we were in Berlin.

It was really intense
because we couldn’t see anything,
just the other ghosts
trying to use Skype
in an Internet cafe.

One day, out of nowhere,
we were on Google Earth
and we saw a plane
sitting abandoned
in a secluded field.

We grew so excited
because we planned
on making that plane
our house.

We had never lived
in a plane, only apartments
with snoring dogs
and sniggering rats,
only apartments
in real bad shape,
half-flooded with seawater,
yet somehow still
worth a million dollars.

We were very much in love with the idea of being in a place that was really different from the rest

Then One Foggy Christmas Eve

We were singing
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
at church
instead of
Amazing Grace
and something
didn’t seem
quite right;
like
there was no verve,
no gumption,
no gratification
for caroling
to the heavens.
It didn’t seem
like the right
little ritual
for the time.

And this was,
at bottom,
the very reason
I wanted
to sing
my memoirs
at a Christmas Eve
extravaganza.

I needed
to sing
these truths:
that we must love each other,
that happiness isn’t constant,
that the brain needs melody,
and that life is like a gingerbread house:
quite messy
and prone to collapse
just when you think
you’ve got it all
put together nicely
(but pretty sweet
from start to finish).

The people
in my memoir song
sound different
than they do
in real life.

When my mother sings,
“Would you like
to be
a little elf?”
she sounds like Emmy Lou Harris
and I recall my mother,
wide-eyed and wrinkle-free,
with hair halfway down her back;
when her voice drifts down
to sing,
“Or would you like
to be
buried under snow?”
you must recall
that’s how
I’ve written
her parts
of the song.

When my family comes
to my song’s premiere
no one asks
what the song is for.
They only ask
why they all
sound different
from how they sound
in real life.

After the premiere,
we all go out
to eat fried rice
and steamed veggies.

We wait hours
for supper
to arrive.
We don’t talk
about much,
but we do hum
along to some
jolly Christmas tunes
saturating
the air
around us.

Then One Foggy Christmas Eve