The Westboro Baptist Church is big on signs –
not just their own, those tri-colored
foam core laminated boards with the punchy slogans
(GOD HATES FAGS,
YOU HATE GOD,
MANDELA IN HELL).
Every storm is proof of rage.
Every mishap a sign of God as Master Puppeteer.
Slash a WBC member’s tire –
two years later some flood is payback.
It’s an interesting way to live,
in a world where there are no coincidences,
no freakish happenstance.
Retribution or reward,
depending on the body count.
I had a clairvoyant stop me in Downtown Crossing once, years ago.
You have a gift that you don’t use,
she told me, sort of confused, on the cusp of outrage.
I shook her – it – off.
Back when I didn’t want the invisible sign
around my neck that branded me as other,
back when I wanted more than anything to just be left alone,
back when I stifled nearly everything
in exchange for a little peace at lunch,
I stopped telling people who was on the phone when it rang,
and kept most everything I sensed
about the course of a given day to myself.
And so I’m reduced to kernels of calm
or anvil dread without any real idea of why.
That’s the deal I made:
Here’s the sign. Let me be a normal kid.
Disaster. I never got normal, and I never grew.
I believe in coincidence,
in whirling messes of molecules
that arrived out of nowhere,
and yet getting a Bicentennial quarter
in my change at Starbucks
makes me look left, right, then up.