For the Bible Tells Me So
On the tape with his voice on it,
your father is asking if you think
your mother’s legs are pretty.
You were five, you didn’t know
what makes a leg pretty,
how it should curve out
and then taper down to the ankle,
how one should cross over the other,
the skirt slide up.
He laughs when you don’t answer
the way adults do.
I can hear your breath on the tape,
I can see you in the living room
with the gilt-framed faces of people
named Ludrick and Vida,
the turquoise chairs and the Zenith tv,
your mother with her eyebrows
drawn on and her dresses belted,
your father with his microphone
You and your brother
wear robes over your cuffed pajamas,
you have crewcuts and long, thin bones.
This is the America
you were born into, where lines
between Cowboy and Indian,
your mother and your father,
even you and your brother
who sings loud into the tape
but you they have to threaten
with going to bed early
if you won’t do it
so your voice comes at us mad
across the forty years—
Jesus loves me, this I know,
for the Bible tells me so.
This is your father, dead so long
you don’t remember his voice
even when you hear it.
All those years, your mom dusted him
like that empty vase
she kept up on the mantle
made of pink Depression glass.
“For the Bible Tells Me So” previously appeared in The Florida Review.
Laura Read has published poems in a variety of journals, most recently in Rattle, The Mississippi Review, and The Bellingham Review. Her chapbook, The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You, was the 2010 winner of the Floating Bridge Chapbook Award, and her collection, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was the 2011 winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and will be published this fall by the University of Pittsburgh Press. She lives in Spokane, WA with her husband Brad and their two sons, Benjamin and Matthew.