February 5, 2021

Laura Gregory

TIFFANI’S TESTIMONY AT THE 11:30 A.M. SERVICE

It was shit that launched the tech guy
over the soundboard and froze the pastors
in the lukewarm tank, teeth clenched like stage-moms
trying not to mime the moves.

It was shit that pinched the congregation
into a collective squint
to see where Tiffani’s family was sitting and if
they looked like people who would clap at graduation
after the Dean said to hold your applause.

But Tiffani went on loudly
about the shit she’s no longer struggling with, shit
like heavy recreational drug use to self-medicate her depression,
and frequent one-night stands without protection,
which, she marveled, Jesus
had freed her from and which, it appeared, the pastors
wished to footnote just in case
new folks got the wrong idea about grace,
like grace was free tampons
in the ladies’ room, and God was the janitor
shuffling to the supply closet for more, annoyed,
jangling his keys.

Then Tiffani climbed the portable steps
into the tub, held her nose and grinned
as she went under,
and I kicked myself
for not inviting Kevin, my ex-coworker
who hates church and thinks God
is a lesbian, who would have oh girl’d
the trainwreck and maybe would’ve seen
how the Church is the Bride,
and the Bride is the trainwreck, sprawled out
on the couch in sweatpants, unshowered,
eating General Tso’s chicken, and Christ
loves the Church anyway, like Shallow Hal
loved Gwyneth Paltrow.

I wish I could say the Pharisees slapped on
their sackcloth when Tiffani popped up
out of that water and fist-pumped,
but they just handed her a towel
and ushered her away.

At the next baptism all candidates were required
to record their testimonies in advance
in a room with two potted plants
and a couch with matching pillows
an intern bought at Target.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020

__________

Laura Gregory: “When I was sixteen, I camped out in the reference section of the library after school one day with a literary criticism book. I had just read Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes by J. D. Salinger and desperately wanted to know if it meant what I thought it meant. As I devoured the interpretations, I felt a deep sense of unity with the man who wrote the words and awe at the power of story to reveal truth. That’s the irresistible pull of writing for me—accessing that mysterious bridge through space and time where strangers stand together for a brief moment, nodding yes.”

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