I Met God, And I Could Live Without Her

A wind from another world slaps my chest:
I want to go home.
I am heading to my Cambridge apartment
Passing stores and streets I can feel in my toes when I’m miles away
But I know—
That is not home.
Neither is the house where I grew up
Or anyplace else I’ve seen.
It hits again, hard:
I want to go home.
And then…
Help. Please.

Could home be a time?
Maybe that day at the Jersey Shore
Gliding on the raft and wishing I could stay there, always
Because I’d found a slice of space apart from fear.
It was back when time was long
When summer spread out like a thousand new countries
And floating soda cans and candy wrappers
Could feel like miracles.
But I wound up in sandy sneakers, legs burning against the car’s back seat
Closing my eyes when we passed the dirty, tilting tombstones
Because even then, I knew.

Home is not the month before my thirteenth birthday.
I asked the rabbi what happens when we die.
He said: We live on in the minds of those who remember us.
I asked: But what about my consciousness?
He laughed and said I’d get sick of my consciousness.
You just wait and see, he said.
I told my parents and they laughed, too.
My father renamed the TV remote “Consciousness.”
At first it made us happy and polite:
Do you mind if I change the Consciousness?
We laughed and laughed.
Soon, of course, we were screaming:
Give me that Consciousness. I refuse to watch this shit.
It was almost funny, because time was still long.

Now time is a grim, flying capsule.
I want to plunge my hands into time’s guts and stretch it
But I don’t know how.

Once, in that odd line between dream and sharpened vision
Time warped into a gleaming tunnel
And I saw the day of my death.
The deep blue, almost purple sky
Was more than a sky:
It had a mind and a heart that flowed and roared into new skies
Which reached beyond anything my brain could know
Or even imagine knowing.
Come join us, they said, but not in words.
Were these skies my home?

If I wanted, I could travel towards them.
They would cloak themselves around me like the deep purple robe of a king.
And then?
What if they smothered me?
What if they pounded me to bits with their big blue fists?
What if I got smaller and smaller until I was nothing at all?
Nothing is not my home. This I know.

When I was three, Nothing sliced across my life
Giving every future moment that thick stain of dread.
My cousins’ other grandfather died.
I saw his gravestone at something called an unveiling.
I knew we were there because Leon had died.
I knew that dying meant he was gone.
And I knew, somehow, that I would also die.

I walked around the cemetery. There were big headstones and small ones.
Some almost seemed to reach the sky.
When I die, I want a big headstone, I told my mother.
Both of us shivered. What else could we do?

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Days were still fun.
My father made peanut butter swirls with toast and strawberry jam.
I spun myself around and around in our front yard
Until I got dizzy
And the world shook like a new dimension had somehow unfurled.

But nights
Nothing came.
Nothing, Nothing, Nothing: I would try to imagine it.
I would lie in bed
Stiff and freezing
And think:
What if I couldn’t think at all?
What if my brain was empty?
What if I died and kids still bought Nutty Buddies from the snack bar at the pool
And ate them at the picnic tables with people who weren’t me?

When I met God last year, I asked Her about death.
God was short and slightly overweight, which made me so happy
But even this could not contain my disappointment.

An old friend had told me about God.
He’d met Her in India, at Her ashram.
He believed She’d climbed into his soul and healed him.

When God went to New Jersey, I couldn’t resist.
God’s own people landed me a private meeting with Her.
What would you do if you had ten minutes with God?
I launched right into the biggie:
Where will my consciousness go when I die?
Will I be everything
Conferring with the blue purple sky, learning its secrets, sharing its love
But keeping a separate me-ness
Like a diamond suspended in a cloud
Or will I vanish
Because the blue purple sky’s strength and wisdom
Will overpower every last silly bit of who I was?

God gave me a snooty little smile.
I’m sorry, but that’s how it seemed.
And She said:
Both? I asked. Can you clarify your thinking?
I am God, She said, as if that explained everything.
She shook Her hips a little.

I left God’s room.
Her followers lounged around the yard of Her hosts’ house.
They shouted at me happily:
Did you meet Her? Wasn’t it great? Isn’t She astounding?
They had found home. Good for them. Really.

I sat at the edge of God’s hosts’ yard
Head smothered in my hands.
Help, I whispered. Help. Please, please, please.
I wait.