Maybe it’s the whole pastor-threatening-to-burn-the-Qur’an thing down in Florida, or maybe it’s the conversation I had with my six-year-old yesterday about Christmas and Hannukah, or perhaps even the latest episode of Louie, or the fact that us Jews are in the midst of the High Holy Days, but for some reason I’ve got God on the brain. Of course, since I don’t believe in God, it’s a bit of a contradiction. I couldn’t give a good goddamn (no pun intended) about religion. It’s just not for me. The rest of you want to celebrate religion? By all means, knock yourselves out. It’s not my place to tell you what’s right for you. I’m not trying to mobilize folks; this isn’t an argument. I’m just saying that shit isn’t for me. There’s no denying, though, that God and religion are all around us, always. We can talk about the separation of church and state till our tongues fall out, but the fact is that the two are integrated. Okay, I’m done preaching. (Again, no pun intended.)
“Holy Rollers” appeared in my master’s thesis, though I’m pretty sure I started writing it while I was an undergrad. All I know is that I legitimately believed this to be true as a kid, or at least convinced myself of it so as not to be scared half to death. I wouldn’t say that it helped me sleep, but it certainly made it a hell of a lot easier to think of stormy weather as something comical. Hell, I’ve even told my daughter the same story on nights she was afraid of the thunder. Did she envision it as I did? Probably not. But at least, in the end, she slept.
My parents used to say that thunder
was the angels bowling, whatever it took
to keep me out of their bed when it stormed,
to keep me, in all our minds, safe. Those nights
it boomed all around me, I’d lay awake
and picture the angels identically dressed
in polyester shirts, names like Gabe
and Pete stitched in tiny, cursive letters
over top their left-breast pockets,
Holy Rollers emblazoned across their backs,
hurling, one by one, those black moons
down the lane, wings high-fiving
as they leveled pins to cosmic dust. By the end
of Spring, they led the league in scoring, spares
converted. The end-of-season banquet
meant the trophy presentation, golden statues
divvied up from the boss’s hands to theirs,
MVP honored with his own retired jersey.
For a time I came to welcome the constant
crash of sphere on stick, knowing full-well
that even angels took a smoke-break
from the yank and drain of everyday salvation.
But returning to my parents’ bedroom once
after she’d gone — a night the angels banged
the backs of alley walls with torrid throws —
I found my father captured there in cramped
and crooked sleep, plagued by sudden jerks
of what might’ve been a dream. Thunder bursting,
I wondered if he heard the angels, too,
and if sanctuary is what their strikes afforded.