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ISSUE:  Fall 2009

 —for Tamara Jones

The house is in need of repair, but is—
for now, she says—still hers. After the storm,
she laid hands on what she could reclaim:
the iron table and chairs etched with rust,
the dresser laced with mold. Four years gone,
she’s still rebuilding the shed out back
and sorting through boxes in the kitchen—
a lifetime of bills and receipts, deeds
and warranties, notices spread out
on the table, a barrage of red ink: past due.
I used to be like cream, she says. I always rose
to the top. Now, the house is a museum

of everything she can’t let go: a pile
of photographs—fused and peeling—
water stains blurring the handwritten names
of people she can’t recall; a drawer crowded
with funeral programs and church fans,
rubber bands and paper sleeves for pennies,
nickels, and dimes. What stops me is the stack
of tithing envelopes. Reading my face,
she must know I can’t see why—even now—
she tithes, why she keeps giving to the church.
First seek the kingdom of God, she tells me,
and the rest will follow—says it twice

as if to make a talisman of her words.


In Verse is supported by Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, an initiative of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. This project is made possible with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a broadcast partnership with Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.


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