God is love, easy to memorize.
But how to understand
its trueness, God’s finger and flame,
lightning staining my window, hell’s
dark mouth under my bed.

Here’s how to never burn—
come into my heart, Lord Jesus, the altar call
at summer camp. Accept with grace his lily breath,
his tongue on my tongue, a mistaken click of
teeth, sorry. Better tilt your head opposite mine.

There is no truer initiation to love. The ragtag
sign says Girls Keep Out, so I sneak up the
ladder at three am, the hour demons walk.
He is always waiting, up and down his chest
billows with gentle air, the breath of heaven. I hold
back his hair, whisper please tell me how.

The other one is Jesus wept. I wept
while my mother’s love died on the breast,
her last kiss on my four-year-old cheek.
Did he know such thirst
when the vinegar passed his lips?
This water I bring is full of love, the bucket
from the back steps of my granny’s house,
a dipper so silver and clear. I give it to him now,
my only gift.

There is no roof in this cathedral,
only stars, the checkered blankets my brothers left here
spread smooth and soft. We lie together and he shows
me what it means to open, how wide my heart can be.
That’s how he split the sea, the red walls curling back like
wings, the chosen with their dry sandals gliding to shore.

Of course it’s true, this most persistent lover, covering my
mouth with his hand. Shhhhh. There is no fear.


REBECCA COOK’s books are a novel, Click (New Rivers Press 2014), and two books of poems, I Will Not Give Over (Aldrich Press, 2013), and The Terrible Baby (Dancing Girl Press, 2006). New work is forthcoming in Seneca Review, Plume, and Menacing Hedge. You can find published work online at The Georgia Review, Atticus Review, the EEEL, BlazeVox, Map Literay, Split Lip, Stirring, Antioch Review, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, and many other journals. She blogs at godlikepoet.com.

3 responses to “Short Verses Whispered in a Tree House”

  1. Rebecca Cook says:

    I am so pleased to have a poem in TNB. This is the third poem published from the collection of “God” poems that I am working on. One appeared in Georgia Review, another in Antioch Review.


  2. Ray Jones says:

    Great work from a great writer. I love the pace and the juiciness of it all.

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