Two Poems by Scott Owens
When Bobby asked the preacher
what he had to do to get the Lord
to make things right in his world,
the preacher just said, Pray,
pray and have faith.
The word hit Bobby like a sledgehammer
to the head, Faith, he said
was what his Momma had while his Daddy
pumped all their money and god knows what else
into some juke joint whore 10 years
younger than her, and his Papa had faith
that Vulcan Quarries would take care of him
when his hearing was gone after too many blasts
and his gut started to rot from siphoning gasoline
from one machine to another,
and his Granny had faith enough for all of them
and screamed about it all the time,
faith enough to push her daughter
to get married at thirteen
because now that she was bleeding,
she was bound to sin with that boy.
No, Bobby said, as he stood up
and walked out of the church
he’d grown up in for the last time,
I reckon the world’s already got
about as much faith as I can stand.
Scripture often left Bobby confused,
as if it all might be some huge conspiracy,
a trap laid for those not in the know.
Take that Third Commandment, for example.
The way Bobby’s Granny explained it,
he’d go to hell just for saying hell.
But his Momma said, No, that wasn’t it.
It’s all about words people use to describe
unclean parts of a man or woman’s body.
His Uncle Charles said it was really about
damning people, wishing them to hell.
His Papa told him it was best to just
avoid mean words all the way around.
In church on Sunday when the preacher said
it’s all about the name, not using
the Lord’s name to your own benefit,
Bobby had had enough.
He felt so confused and aggrieved by it all
he just stood up and said, Now how the hell
can I avoid using that sonofabitch’s name
if none of you cocksuckers will ever tell me
his goddamn name in the first place?