FOUR EPISTLES (Part 2), Jeff Newberry and Justin Evans

Editors’ note: This is the second of a four-poem set submitted jointly by Justin Evans and Jeff Newberry. We’ve opted to publish one poem on each normal publication day, over the span of a week and a half. Their bio will be included in each day’s installment. We’re also providing links back and forth to each of the poems once this series’ publication has completed. 

Epistle about the Doctrine of Preordination

Imagine the terrible weight of having God 
on your side. You must walk assured 
that each vow you break, each bug you kill, 
each face you scar with the face you’ve prepared, 
all is preordained, all sanctioned. My friend 
the pastor tells me that I’m wrong, that God
doesn’t use us like puppets. He preaches
three-point sermons footnoted with Luther
& Calvin. He thinks guns and God
are one in the same, thinks only fools trust
the government, sees me as misguided,
a fool not to answer with folly. I think 
of a guy we used to call “Preacher Man” 
when I was a kid. He rode around
on a three-wheeled trike & told all who’d listen
that the Kingdom was at hand. He said 
my brother’s best friend Ben couldn’t go
to heaven because animals don’t go to heaven
& quoted some obscure Old Testament verse
meant to show heaven a white-washed
Caucasian paradise. Preacher Man handed 
out Chick tracts & I’ll confess, some nights
I lay in bed and shuddered, thinking literal fire 
& brimstone, wondering if I were an enemy
of the Most High. The angel touched
Isaiah’s lips to burning coal & told the prophet
his guilt had been taken away. I bite myself 
daily & probe the wounds with my tongue.
I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.
You’d think I would have learned by now. 
Justin Evans’ latest book is Sailing This Nameless Ship (BlazeVOX). His next book, All the Brilliant Ideas I’ve Ever Had, is forthcoming from Foothills Publishing. He lives in rural Nevada with his artist wife, Becky, and their sons, where he teaches at the local high school. Jeff Newberry, Ph.D., teaches at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, where he lives with his graphic designer wife, Heather, and their children. His latest book is the novel, A Stairway to the Sea (Pulpwood Press). He is also author of the poetry collection, Brackish (Aldrich Press).
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About barkingsycamores 183 Articles
Barking Sycamores is a literary journal entirely edited and operated by queer neurodivergent people of color. We publish poetry, artwork, short fiction (beginning with Issue 3), creative nonfiction (beginning with Issue 8), and hybrid genre work (beginning with Issue 9) by emerging and established neurodivergent writers as well as essays on neurodiversity and literature and book reviews (beginning with Issue 10).

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