by Leslie Anne Mcilroy
It is hot. Louisiana hot. And, what body doesn’t
want a vacation from dull, the detritus of ordinary—a
little more sweat? We walk toward the ferry from
Algiers Point, stop at the first bar—The Old Point—
and order two greyhounds at 1 p.m. because we are
on holiday and they have grapefruit juice.

A man down the vacant bar pays for them, tipping his
backward baseball cap in a southern gesture of
welcome. He is Jesus. Lean muscle and strong hands
that can build or tear down anything. Eyes that know.
Jesus in a ball cap.

He does not follow us out into the music coming from
an empty truck, playing blues and alarmingly
amenable country. I smoke outside, the Mississippi
lapping in the background. My mother takes a sip,
leans back with a smile I have not seen except when
she fixes something. Fixes it right.

Jesus is leaving, getting into his truck, the music
truck, back to his sawdust work, expecting nothing. I
ask him not to go, buy him a Bud in my northern
reciprocity. He sits down and our itinerary changes.
He is a carpenter. He makes things, uses his hands.
My mother talks to him about tools and how you can’t
use another’s. He says he never borrows a saw, lends
a planer. He says it just ain’t right.

I could tell you the part about the sexist owner of the
bar who sat down with us to tell lewd jokes that made
my mother call for the bill and me to dismiss
everything but the carpenter’s face. I could tell you
how I was single and brought matching underwear
just in case. I could tell you that I always want things
I can’t have and only some things I can.

Because it is 2018, Jesus and I exchange phone
numbers. Because it is 2018, I never expect him to
call. He texts me. Because it is 2018 (or any other
year), I shower and dress in a mini skirt that I have
been told not to wear now that I am past 50. Because
it is 2018, I can tell you I don’t give a fuck.

Jesus picks me up in his truck and takes me to his
friend Taco’s. Taco is tall and Mexican and equal parts
gruff, rough and warm. I am more home here than I
have ever been: the chicks tended by their mother in
the ragged coop, Taco herding them, waving his long
arms with a “Caw-Caw, Caw-Caw,” the swarm of early
summer termites to the fire, the trip to the Piggly
Wiggly where Jesus buys everything I want, a wad of
cash in his workman hands. He pushes the cart,
makes dinner on the grill. I hold a rooster, smoke
reefer. I smoke inside. Jesus reaches for my hand as I
trip up the concrete step. Jesus reaches for my hand.

Taco makes me jewelry out of stolen copper, talks of
jail and hard times. They try to teach me to chop
wood in my mini skirt and sandals, knee just scabbing
up. I hold the axe in the wrong hand. I have always
held the axe in the wrong hand.

Jesus puts his arm around my waist to guide my hips.
My hips have not been guided in forever. I kiss him.

God, I love men that fix things and build fires. Men
who tell me the wood is from Texas, hard to crack.
Then, crack it. Men who chase the runaway chick,
jumping over the fence to bring it back to its mother.
Men who still look at me with some kind of desire,
some kind of reverent want. God.

“Fling” is a word people use too often. But what if
“fling” just rhymes with “ring” and is the closest thing
forever your heart will feel after years of
travelling, of looking for the next coming, trying to
connect the mind and body in a way that even God
himself finds tedious?

What if holy is really grilled oysters, corn and a shot
of Jameson? If salvation is a twenty for the beggar
and the wretched humanity of a DUI? What if Jesus is
what happens when you go to New Orleans for the
voodoo and jazz but come back with a carpenter’s
pencil behind your ear, making your hair fall just so,
and a small bruise on your thigh from a night of
lovemaking on a stolen bed?

If that is faith, then I am in. Say I am a believer, the
sacred sacrament of hammer and hunger, say any
prayer you can craft out of desire and decadence, and
baby, I will kneel. Crosses are made of wood. Forever
is a dovetail.

Leslie Anne Mcilroy won the 1997 Slipstream Poetry Chapbook
Prize for Gravel, the 2001 Word Press Poetry Prize for her full-
length collection Rare Space and the 1997 Chicago Literary
Award. Her second book, Liquid Like This, was published by Word
Press in 2008, and Slag by Main Street Rag Publishing Company
as runner-up in their 2014 Poetry Book Prize. Leslie’s poems
appear in Grist, Jubilat, The Mississippi Review, PANK, Pearl,
Poetry Magazine, the New Ohio Review, The Chiron Review and
more. She co-founded the journal
HEArt—Human Equity through
Art. Leslie works as a copywriter in Pittsburgh where she lives
with her son Silas.

Photo: Matt Wrbican