• When I Say Jesus Was My Boyfriend

    Erin Adair-Hodges

    Spring 2018

    I don’t mean that I snuck out my bedroom window,
    vaulting over juniper bushes to get to his car
    which he’d bought by working summers and weekends
    at the Trujillos’ Broken Moon ranch,
    tractoring the fields, hauling bales,
    and turning a red so deep
    it gives up into brown,
                  nor do I mean

    he’d drive me through the early winter night
    to the lonesome mesa and turn off the engine,
    sitting still for a nervous moment before leaning in
    to French my face, his eager tongue
    a newborn calf struggling its way
    to milk, his hand searching my shirt and,
    when finding form, cupping my breast, not
    with lust so much as reverence,
    a jeweler staring through a loupe
    at a gem rumored and finally realized,
    the radio playing an R&B song filled
    with harmonies and breakdowns and, at one point,
    talking, a testimony, the deep voice pledging
    to do better, be better, love harder,
    if given the chance.
                 When I say Jesus was my boyfriend

    I mean only that I talked about him
    to all my friends and did the things
    I thought he’d like because I knew
    he loved me but mostly in the way
    we know at fifteen that everyone we love
    will someday be dead, and we will be dead,
    and an army flying some future flag
    will build an outpost on what was once the mall
    where our parents dropped us off
    to hang out with our friends
    except that no one else shows and so
    it’s just us drinking an Orange Julius
    and trying to look indifferent
    to loneliness, which is to say
    this certainty was theoretical and I wasn’t sure
    of anything, so I gave my body to the river,
    wore white because I was his.
                  When I say

    Erin Adair-Hodges is the winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for Let's All Die Happy and author Every Form of Ruin, forthcoming in 2023 as part of the Pitt Poetry Series. A former academic, she is now an acquisitions editor for Lake Union Publshing.

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