Christopher Stephen Soden received his MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) in January 2005 from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has written film and theatre critique for The Fort Worth Ally, EdgeDallas, John Garcia’s The Column, Examiner.com and sharpcritic.com. His poetry has appeared in numerous venues including: The Cortland Review, Rattle, G & L Review, The Texas Observer, Borderlands, Assaracus, and Ganymede Poets. Short plays of his (including : Water, Radio Flyer, Every Day is Christmas. In Heaven. and Queer Anarchy have been staged at Bishop Arts Theatre Center, The MAC and Nouveau 47. Christopher also teaches and lectures on craft, theory, genre and explication.

Needing God

Much as I enjoy the ubiquitous pleasure of brisket tucked

into enchiladas, tamales and soft tacos, I wish now

we’d eaten in a place not sunken in soothing darkness. We talk

about writing techniques, early Scorsese, how Kubrick terrorized Shelly Duvall on the set

of The Shining. How I want

to make a novena for my sister, though I’m not Catholic. I will cadge

mercy from Saint Jude for Penelope locked away and aching, farther

from me than any dying sun. She swims catastrophe like a lost fish, and my failures as a brother keep me

company like disappointed Seraphim.

We get there early for the comedy, converse with performers, leaving

and returning, actresses with hair wrapped before they fasten their wigs. The play

is insipid, lines meticulously remembered still plummet, like poisoned gulls.

He leaves at intermission to grab a couple of beers, while I stay because I’m reviewing. It would take more than this to rob me

of the rush, the jazz

that stokes my breath on opening night, but I feel his weariness

on the way home, tangible

as a thick, dull coin in the palm. Knowing it was devotion that brought

him to my door, when he might have bailed. I hug Chloe, patting her small belly, at the same time stroking Kitty-Kitty who bites

at my knee. When I rise to check

the mail, bruised, purple clouds block the sky. Behind the small

door I find another dystopian thriller, a postcard and coupons. Throughout the evening I have begged

God to bandage me in the implacable comfort of His arms, and search

my memory for a blue lullaby from the distant past. Something sophisticated and intoxicating and bleak (spring arrived on time, but what became of you) that will thaw my frail, disaffected heart.

snakes and ladders

in the cold dark brick and stone

uncoiling smoke of elementary

indoctrination with textbooks and snot-rags

ready to beat all the singing

right out of you i found a boy

skin pale and milky as the sun burning

through gray clouds simon spoke

with a lilt gliding spirit of air

that crossed the glistening ocean from the realm

of fairies dark winged and defiant

and busy with fizzy mischief we couldn’t have

exchanged more than three or four sentences

my heart incapable of surviving

the undiluted deluge the day i found him

at recess with a gift for a chipper

brother hardly more than a stranger

i knew it was nothing just a board game

from the five and dime

fifty years later i still cannot

imagine what he thought when i said this is for you

but it doesn’t matter because his smile

was the nameless extravagance of boy love