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 author of Let's All Die Happy, winner of the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. In 2017 she was the Claudia Emerson scholar at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, where she wrote “When I Say Jesus Was My Boyfriend.” Erin is the cocreator and curator of the Bad Mouth Reading Series in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is currently a visiting professor of creative writing at the University of Toledo.

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