Our mother insists Jesus’ mother spanked him
when he misbehaved, and sinless he sobbed,

not knowing what he was doing. Our mother
felt us closest to him in our wet eyes so,               Jesus wept

and he whipped us in shape. Together crouching
over the rock, and two words were enough

for my brothers and I to recite for candies
after class, and Jesus wept again

for our laziness.               My brothers
build a kingdom in mud by the creek,

beat our chests and burn
our scalps, hold each other

under, and our mother assumes the water
is His tears fallen, so we spit

into each others’ eyes,
lick our palms and reach

toward something to see, you see
Jesus kissed and forgot to cry about it.

I am fixing this oversight. Watch him sob
and flood the Earth in mustard seed:

imagine the mess when it rains—
all flower and snot and branches my brothers

cut down in the yard, call it
jaw of an ass, call it jackal bone, slash

toward rib, and remember:
He flips a table and tosses his locks,

so all of us weep as he
breaks down, cries out on his knees.

A memory: to catch the mice alive
he pours peanut oil in a glass bowl so

they catch scent               kick climb & roll

& today the mouse who lives with me
is getting so brave, leaving its wall

while I’m still awake, just to sit
in my kitchen and squirm

where we might have to hear each other
breathe               & one more memory:

before there is time for bruising,
my father holds me,

pins my arms and legs in a plexus
you could almost mistake for embrace,

& the mice in the bowl lose
energy, found in the morning

coated and cowering in their greasy pit. Still
always cleaned before release, pinched

tail & sprayed down         & I stopped
setting out glue traps when I woke

to my mouse rolling across the linoleum;
he unstuck the fur though I know

he must remember               & still
he hops into the light

where we accept
our home together

& maybe
in all this faith,

I still do not know what love is
unless it’s stronger arms holding me

still                             until I’m quiet.

JOHN MARK BROWN grew up on a small farm in Southern Illinois. They are an MFA candidate at Rutgers–Camden, a Philadelphia resident, and a cardigan enthusiast, with work appearing in Indiana Review Online, Hobart, and Stirring, among others.