frio river

this poem will send me to hell

I remember the night
I built a home for him
in my heart
I lit a candle I wouldn’t
let the devil woosh out

my youth group sang songs
under the moon
next to the frio river
in southwest texas
three hundred sixty six
miles
&
five hours (ish) from
my bedroom

I missed the bus sunday morning
my father drove me there with work the
next day so I could spend my first
week away in nature, my first
week away from everything
I’ve known
that day my father showed me
what being a man means

my entire life I was taught
that I was a bad person
I was unclean
I was a sinner
I wasn’t good enough
I wasn’t pure
I wasn’t going to heaven
unless I repented
unless I was immersed
so that night
I sang
I cried
I accepted that
I was broken
I was ugly
I was nothing
wishing to be
something

/time out from the poem
I was turning something like
twelve, going into 7th grade
it was the beginning of summer
how the fuck is this type of mental abuse
not child abuse? How the fuck
is this allowed?
to threaten children with flames
to guilt trip them into thinking
a man died for them two thousand
years ago and needs you to be
fully immersed in fucking water?
/rant
back to poem

the next afternoon we went
further up the river from
our singing site to a swimming
site called the blue hole
the older kids, the badass kids
would jump from a clearing
in the valley side and swim
down to the bottom
&
touch the bed, it was
something like thirty fucking
feet deep
crazy
one time I belly flopped
because I was chubbier
&
almost knocked myself out
I got hugs and high fives
&
I was a hero
until dinnertime

I wore an oversized blue
shirt
&
swam out to my youth minister
there were no birds
the sun shone below to the
bottom of the bed
we stood on an underwater shelf
the silence of the birds
the muted smiles of the group
the steady breath of my minister
his heavy hand on my shoulder
like an exclamation point of
stillness

he asked if I believed jesus
died for my sins
I confirmed
so in the name
of the father, who abandoned me
of the son, who didn’t know me
of the spirit, who never entered me
I was saved
then he dunked me into
a shade of blue I wasn’t
ready for

I eventually left the church

the same youth group who cried
&
hugged me abandoned me at a movie
one night and laughed in my face
the next day

it was a congregation that taught
me that my friends who weren’t
church of christ
would be punished and sent to
hell, because their church
didn’t have the same fucking
letters on their sign

the private university who turned
their back on me
the way we had certain fridays
when the food tasted better
when daily chapel was
more like a fireworks show
the visiting seniors completed
their applications thinking
at this place they could
change the world
but the real foundation of faith

isn’t sin
isn’t salvation
isn’t grace

it’s a semester increase
in fucking tuition bulging
from purple and gold
pockets
&
a money basket with
a guilt trip hole in
the bottom

I left the church

the father
the son
the spirit

are just fucking magic tricks
&
I finally learned

the secret

2

So I’m gonna share a personal religious encounter. 

When I was younger(probably around 17 or so) me a my family went up to the frio river in texas for the first time. That place is absolutely amazing. Huge cypress trees all over the place, and beautiful water. Plus, its mountain-y. Well I’d been swimming in the river all day, and the sun was setting. Me, being the brilliant person I am, decided I wanted to go exploring along the shore and see what I could find. 

Now there was enough sun for me to see well enough, and I eventually wandered about 1 or 2 miles away from everyone else. The shore of the frio river in the area we were in was lined with fist sized rocks. I lost my balance and twisted my ankle on the rocks. It hurt so freakin bad. 

There was no one around for me to call out too, at least not loud enough for them to hear. I could barely walk, and there was nothing I could see that would support enough of my weight that i could use like a crutch to get back to my family. The light was fading fast, and I was terrified. I crawled over to a huge fallen cypress tree and cried. and cried. and prayed. 

At the time I was just beginning my Hellenic studies. Artemis was the goddess who reached out to me in the beginning. So I prayed to her. And then something weird happened. The wind which had been blowing went still, and I heard a rustling in the forested area next to me. I stared at it, scared that it was a wild dog or a hog or something. But what came out was a young deer. 

I tried not to spook the deer. Not entirely sure why I was worried about it in the middle of a perceived crisis but I was. The deer came closer to me, and closer. So close that if I reached out I could touch it. Which I did. It sniffed my hand for a moment, and then let me touch its head. It was looking straight at me the whole time. We stared at each other for a while, before it looked down to my right, looked back at me, turned, and ran off.

I was confused, but I looked down at my right. Now, I looked everywhere before this to try and find something to help me get back to my family safely. I couldn’t find anything. Yet, resting there next to my leg was the cypress limb that’s in the above pictures. It looked exactly like that. I didn’t change a thing from the time I saw it until now. The top was already worn like that, and the whole thing was already shaped like that too. 

After staring at the branch for a while, I picked it up and tested my weight on it. It was just tall enough for my to use it as a cane/staff thing. It was strong enough to support my weight. I gave thanks to the gods, especially Artemis, through tears and I limped my way back to my family. I’ve had the cane/staff ever since. 

I’m completely convinced that Artemis answered my prayers and helped me return to my family safely. This is the most detailed and unbelievable interaction I’ve had with one of my Gods.