» Poetry

Faith Test

When the counselor asked her
disciples to gather around the bucket,
her head crowned in clover stems,
we all wanted to be anointed.
The Pentecost of chapel steps and snakes
expelled from little cabins
lined against the trees:
this was our church, our induction
into something greater
than youth group on Wednesday nights
where a teen with a bible taught us
to renounce sex, rated R movies,
the devil in a hot pink romper.
When the counselor dipped her hand
in the water we thought baptism, the bonfire
lit with praise hymns and acoustic guitar.
None of us imagined the goldfish,
its body of shingled scales,
such orange iridescent delight.
To be brave for the lord is to
combat any fear
How do you say no to a soulless tail,
the hand reaching out to say
you could be special too?
How she called on us
to grab the soft round and place it
on our tongues like communion,
like the body we cannibalized
week after week. This is the memory:
feeling the heart rate pulse
against my thumb,
the way my throat closed up
then pushed the belly down.



Christen Noel Kauffman

Christen Noel Kauffman is author of the lyric essay chapbook Notes to a Mother God (2021), which was a winner of the Paper Nautilus Debut Chapbook Series. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in A Harp in the Stars: An Anthology of Lyric Essays (University of Nebraska Press), Nimrod, Tupelo Quarterly, Cincinnati Review, Willow Springs, DIAGRAM, Booth, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, and The Normal School, among others.