Introduction, Blasphemy, and Youth Group

My name is Richard Braxton, and people always ask: do you go by Rich, Richey, or Dick. I tell them that I go by Richard, but I will answer to anything if I know that they are talking to me. I will even answer to “hey fuck face” if you say it politely. And I have been given many nicknames over the years like the obligatory “Big Rich,” “Big Man,” and “Big B” or their inverse like “Tiny.” When it meant something I was called Tony. But for one day, I went by “Mike.”

 

Being a young dick head, anytime I had to sign in for anything, I would sign my name as “Mike Hunt.” I was young enough to think that it was clever, but old enough to know that everyone had heard that one thousands of times before. But I had gone with a group of friends to their church youth group and the pastor expected us to sign in. Abought half an hour into the meeting, the pastor wanted to split us up into teams to play some sort of game, and by chance, he picked up the sign in sheet and began to assign teams by first name instead of just dividing the room in half.

 

I had been the last person to sign the sheet and I waited as people were called out by their first name until the pastor read out the name “Mike.” I sat back and watched my friends look around asking, “Who the hell is Mike?” And then it happened, the pastor repeated, “Mike, Mike Hunt.” I sat back quietly sinking into the leather armchair waiting for people to catch the joke then in exasperation the pastor said. “Where’s Mike Hunt?” And hilarity ensued. Eventually, someone realized that mine was the only name that was not called, and for the rest of the day my name was Mike.

October Poem 52: The Winding Paths

The light through the glass cross opening on

His April of persistence, the old man

Stared toward the altar of an empty church.

Why with the melting frost in his hair had

He watched the blood boil on the kettle

Whistling like the distance between him and

His wife? Why had he poured it out over

The separate teabags in separate cups to

Let them steep in their own loneliness? Why

Place the cups on separate table ends to

Grow ice cold while he stood staring out the

Window at the golden light watching the

Winter grow short and cold? And why now in

The cathedral does he contemplate God?

October Poem 16: If Curtains Have Meaning

The red iron smell of the dried wood tongue

That had been burned against the heat like the

Sweet jalapeños. As if the gap between

The bushes of peppers and his cover

In growing of the grass hasn’t brought down

Layered insects, you ask him, what does it

Mean? He responds: does your house have curtains?

Now tell me, if you can, what do they mean?

In so many ways, he had given in

Adorned like stained glass in a Catholic

Church. He had taken on the mantle of

Post-modernism. Now, he was of the

Neighborhood garden. Pushing up lifting

The front of a word so malleable.

August Poem 24: Lazy Saturday

He was a force in sports walking down Sea

Foam, Breaker, and Windward to the field by

The jetty. Ball, bat and glove in hand, he

Would meet the other kids. If they all showed

It would be a lazy Saturday game.

They’d rotate the at bats and each kid’d keep

His own score. As the day wears on, some of

The kids would wander home to “check in” or

“Get a snack.” The rest of them would jeer with

Calls of “pussy” and “mama’s boy.” When skies

Darken, he would wander home with his ball,

Bat, and glove dreaming of the next game and

Dreading the false structure of a boring

Sunday of scriptural contemplation.