On Thursdays the boys played basketball
in the church parking lot
while Sister Priscilla taught the girls
to sew on buttons, stitch hems, iron collars.
She’d lean her rigid body to guide
my hands at the machine, her cabbage breath
lingering as she walked to the next girl.
God lingered too. God watched
my hands feed the needle blue cloth bits at a time. He
watched my mouth, knew where I’d put it next, on the end
of a thread before pulling it through the eye.
Sometimes I’d imagine hemming my uniform
above my knee. Sometimes I’d fake a migraine
so I could watch from the attic, the boys
with sleeves to their elbows, maybe
just down to a T-shirt. I’d watch
their bodies sweat in ways I’d only seen at the altar
to a song I was singing, my voice inducing
a twitch of limbs, a wag of tongue
in something we weren’t meant to understand.
But God understood. He watched
one of those boys sell drugs at gunpoint,
watched one marry my sister, then another
kiss a baby’s toes. Three years later
I’d touch the sweat of one, in the backseat
of a Dodge Ram van, windows tinted, skirt
pulled up to my waist. God saw the boy
lick a silent prayer, saw my back
curve in exalt.