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A Poem: Victory Garden 

I’m staying home from Sunday School today
because I’m sick, the flu or a bug or
I’m going to die because God calls me
away, to Heaven I hope, but Hell’s more
likely even though I try not to sin
too much, try not to exceed the limit,
whatever that is exactly, and to
make things worse Miss Hooker, my teacher, says
that folks sin anyway, we can’t help it
and all because of Adam and Eve, our
first parents, who crossed God and got cast out

of the Garden of Eden. Father grows
a garden, it’s Mother’s, too, and I see
them from my window working in it now,
it’s just dry enough out there, the dew’s gone
and the sun still isn’t too high. They send
me to church and Sunday School, when I’m well
that is, but today I’ve got my eye on
them out there so I’m not sure if I feel
like God or Satan most but I’m not scared

of snakes and neither is Mother, after
Father killed a chicken snake and only
because we keep chickens and they eat eggs,
the snakes I mean, but we do, too, they’re ours
by right somehow, I guess God says so, at
least Father does, Mother picked it up by
its tail and even twirled it like a sling
and let it go and watched it sail away
into the woods where it came from, where its
friends might eat it or a stray dog or ‘coons
or ‘possums or maybe magically

it will disappear or maybe just mice
will scavenge it or even maggots or
worms. I’ve never witnessed that, not that I’m
afraid, I’ve just never had the chance to
be there at the right time. Worms aren’t too fast
but maybe a million of them will make
short work of it and good riddance even
though a snake has a right to live, too, just
not here, killing chickens in the cradle,
so to speak. It’s like a jungle out there,
I guess, but only if you’re afraid but

when you’re not then maybe you should be and
if I could settle the matter I’d know
too much for my own good, I guess, not that
I’m close yet, I’m only 10, you could write
an encyclopedia about stuff
I don’t know and another set for all


I never will. Or you couldn’t, God could,
and maybe He did, Creation’s what it’s
called but who can live long enough to read
it all? And anyway I nearly flunked
third grade. Father teaches geography

and Mother sells greeting cards so we’re poor
when it comes to money but rich because
we pretend we own the place we rent, it
is our garden, they are our chickens, snakes
who slither in are our snakes as much as
anyone else’s because, Father says,
everything belongs to God anyway
but he still pays his taxes, Father does,
and one day he’ll pay the ultimate price,
he says, and we’ll pay, too, he says, and that

means we’ll die. Miss Hooker says so, too, and
tells us we’d better decide where we’ll spend
Eternity, with God or with Satan,
and I choose God but Satan’s not all bad,
sometimes He’s fun—I sin and afterward
I ask God to forgive me and He does,
but maybe that’s not fair of me, maybe
that’s taking advantage and that’s a sin.
Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Maybe
I’m sick now as punishment, a warning
that I’d better change my evil ways lest
when I die it’s Hell for me, and dying

in sin means Hell as well, Miss Hooker says.
I see Father hoeing corn and Mother
sitting in the shade, fanning herself with
her straw hat and watching Father as if
she’s never seen a man before. Maybe
it’s the heat. They try to make Paradise
out there, I sure give them credit for that,
but if it doesn’t rain it won’t mean beans
except for their knowing that they tried, they
did the work, and even though they failed they

succeeded, they did it without my help
—God’s help I mean—and that must mean something,
to rule the world that used to rule itself.
Take me, for example—I ought to rise
and walk out there but I’m too dizzy with
revelation and anyway Mother
would say, If you’re too sick to be in church
then you’re too sick to be outside. That’s good.

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