Bill and I Go to Christine McIntire's Church

David Kirby

High school seniors, we go to a different church

each Sunday, wanting there to be a God so we can

 

doubt Him. The Quakers are calm, the Methodists jovial.

At the AME church, the pastor recognizes the sisters

 

of the Omega Sapphire sorority in their big hats and then us,

“our very special guests,” everyone turning to look

 

at the white boys. One Saturday we go to the synagogue

and are fed bagels and lox afterward, though we don’t

 

know which are the bagels and which the lox.

Then there’s Christine McIntire’s church. Christine

 

is the most beautiful girl in our class. She’s more

excited about our project than we are, and when we ask her

 

what kind of church hers is, she says, “Just come.”

The people in Christine McIntire’s church begin

 

with a prayer, but in minutes they’re screaming

and throwing themselves around the room and tearing

 

their clothes. They’re stormy petrels, these people.

They’re going to Graceland. A man runs through hell

 

in a gasoline sport coat. A woman scrambles across

the trunk of the death car like Jackie Kennedy trying

 

to retrieve the back of her husband’s head.

The people in Christine McIntire’s church drive trucks

 

for a living and stamp out sheet metal and sweat

long days in those chemical plants by the river

 

that are killing them slowly. They’re homesick for a place

they’ve never been. They’re what Bill and I want to be,

 

passionate about what matters to them and, after that,

indifferent. They’re in love, these people, they’re all shook up.

David Kirby’s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please.