Guilt, Doubt, and Lines in the Sand


I fear the crucifix scalpel did not cut clean,
I fear that it left but a cell,
To infect or split and grow into terminus,
It’s been several years since that battlefield triage,
And I fear the infection dances through my blood,

Twisting its hips, twisting my guts,

Stamping its feet, stamping out my breath,

Because I feel as if I survived the war,
To be haunted by the dreams and defined by its wounds
Apparent and invisible,
I can smell the gangrene, I feel the shrapnel in my spine,

The copper taste of blood on the back of my tongue,

I fear that the trenches I had to hide in,
The places I took shelter,
Are too deep for one to climb out of,
I fear those gaps are as a chasm to us,
I fear your arms too short to reach,
My arms too weak to wave,


I had to kill my brothers, I had to kill my friends,

We shared faces, we shared voices,

Melted lead through the lungs,

Cold bayonet through the windpipe,

Choking, pleading, and dying,

I had to kill my brothers,

Goddamn it, I killed my friends,


The civil war in my mind,

In my life,


The treaty has been signed, but there are pockets,

There are insurgents that meet in the dark places,

Propaganda posters of doubt plastered,

To the alley ways of my mind,

There are assassins, there are saboteurs,

There are enemies to the state,

They do not fight fair, they lie in wait,

Strap bombs to their chests, throw acid,

Shoot up schools, behead innocence,


They are many, and they are one.

They are guilt,

And they whisper into my ear at night,

And they suffocate my faith.




The parking lot and the church have one thousand miles between them sometimes. Sometimes, I’d rather burn the place down than to belly-up to it. My feet turn to cinder blocks, and my heart is tungsten. Guilt gives birth to doubt and I am their midwife.

As I hold guilt’s baby in my arms, I walk into the church. The baby is screaming and everyone is looking at me. Everyone knows the things that I have done; things they would never even think of. I try to comfort the baby but it’s no use. Perhaps I’d be better off outside. Just on the other side of the walls.

I feel more comfortable outside anyways. I always have. There is nobody out here looking at me or my baby. Perhaps the two of us are just better off out here. Perhaps everyone is better off with us out here.

So, I stay outside to raise somebody else’s baby. Too afraid to speak. Too sure of my own evil to believe in grace.



Lines in the Sand

This is my guilt and it’s as big as boulders. This is my doubt and it swallows the ocean.

When they drug my broken body to you, you were kneeling in the sand. With your finger, you were writing something in the dust. They heaped my mass at your feet, and yelled my accusations. Through one swollen eye, I looked at their faces. All of them, the entire lot, was none other than myself.

For the next few minutes I was called an addict. I was branded a pervert. One version of myself had every foul thing I ever said tattooed into his skin. While another was wearing clothes that didn’t fit him, screaming that I’ve ruined all my opportunities. Someone was holding a poster of every girl that I mistreated. Someone was reciting every lie I had ever told, and another was holding a receipt for my every cent spent on drugs.

You just kept kneeling, looking at whatever you were writing. Waving your finger through the dust.

All at once, they asked for your approval of my demise. They wanted your blessing to throw stones at me. Their hands, my hands, gripped the rocks. Their voices, my voice, called for blood.

You stood up, and said something about throwing the first stone. You asked only the innocent to throw. Eventually they, we, all left. There was no one around but you and myself.

You walked over to me,

I was the size of a mustard seed,

You looked down on my scars,

You reached down with your scars,

Asked if anyone had condemned me,

I shook my cloudy head, twisted my broken neck,

Good, you said, neither do I,

Go and sin no more,

And when the war rages in your mind,

In your life,

When you are holding the child of your guilt,

When that doubt is screaming in your arms,

Remember my words, remember my scars,

Remember when you were heaped at my feet,

And I drew lines in the sand.


-TL Schaefer


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