The Low Passions

The Lord came down because God wasn’t enough. 

He lies on sodden cardboard behind bushes 

in the churchyard. Wrapped in faded red. A sleeping bag

he found or traded for. Dark stains like clouds 

before a downpour. The stone wall beside him rising, 

always rising, the edges of stone going blunt 

where the choirboy climbs. He opens his mouth,

but nothing goes in and nothing comes out.

Like the sideshow man who long ago lost

his right testicle to the crossbar of a Huffy.

He peddles the leftover pain. The stitches clipped 

a week later by his father, the fiberglass bathtub 

running with color, the puffy new scar,

the crooked look of the pitted half-sack.  

He tells me you only need one nut, and I want 

to believe him. I want to believe he can still

get it up. I want to believe he has daughters, sons, 

a grandchild on the way, a wife at home 

in a blue apron baking. But why this day-old bread 

from the dumpster, this stash of hollow bottles

in the buckthorn, this wrinkled can of Pabst?

The Lord came down because God wasn’t enough.

Because the childless man draws the bathwater

and cries. Because the choirboy never sings 

as he climbs. Because the bread has all molded

and the mouths are all open. Open to the clotting air.

Homeless, anything helps. Anything. Anything you can 

spare. God bless you, God bless you, God bless. God, 

Lord God, God God, good God, good Lord very good God.

Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Anders Carlson-Wee

Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of THE LOW PASSIONS (W.W. Norton, 2019), a New York Public Library Book Group Selection, and DYNAMITE (Bull City Press, 2015), winner of the Frost Place Chapbook Prize. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, BuzzFeed, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Sun, New England Review, The Southern Review, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and many other publications. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Poets & Writers, Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, he is the winner of the 2017 Poetry International Prize. His work has been translated into Chinese. Anders holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University and is represented by Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents.

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