by Betsy James

Your two-penny face,
bright as your father’s,
wrinkled tight.
Bud on a branch,
monkey between your mother’s thighs,
sleep now.
Lots of work later.

You break the cool urns.
You switch place cards at the table on Olympus—
Zeus falls in love with a donkey
and piddles in the wine.

At your hint, the Junior Choir
adds “under the bedsheets”
to the names of hymns:
Your woodpeckers’ nest in the sanctuary.
You drag your slingshot on the sacristy rail,
and in the silence of the offering
you make the elder fart.

Pythagoras gets your fractal fortune cookie.
All computers go down.
You turn the mayonnaise
at the state dinner; the president
pukes on the prime minister.
You make mics screech,
tug down bunting and banners,
tug up the shade
at the Motel 6 where the elder statesman
is trying something new
and pretty nice.
The Enquirer is there.
Who tipped them?
You stall the long gray Lincoln
and lean on the horn.

It is with your voice
that the child at the family reunion asks loudly,
“How does the daddy’s peepee
get inside the mommy?”
and Aunt Irene, who never married,
gets a sudden itch
and drops her cookie.
You make the penis wilt after the pricey dinner
and stand up on the bus.
You unzip the fly of the shy suitor,
make the wise and clear
therapist dump her husband
for the telephone man.

What would we do without you?
Our most earnest novels would sell.
We would have plenty cash.

You love the screech and crash
of the van as it veers onto the median,
the holy roar
of the heirloom Spode hitting the flagstone.
Over the wreckage you flit, already intent
on your next joy;
oh, we will bless you
after we have cursed you in our blood
and tears and broken
reading glasses,
after we have reclaimed
our dignity to have you once more
send the moth up our nose
at the awards banquet,
gamble off the mortgage,
place the two dogs fucking
in the path of the cortege.

This is the lull before terror
and awe and unbearable light.
Praise the mother and the father,
praise the son.
We are saved!
The whirlwind scatters the altar.
Praise the servant
of the energy of God.

Betsy James

Betsy James is a Tiptree-honoree author and illustrator of fantasies. Her most recent work is Roadsouls, from Aqueduct Press. Find her at