The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Kelly Barraza

Joel Osteen Loves You from A Distance


There are tremors, certain ticks of Anjelica Huston’s
body-clock, in all her black satined,
magnifique, child-despising go as Henson’s witch—
the way she holds a grimace, reticence, in her mouth,
blazes nostrils, the wide angle upshot intimidating
and the audience all knowing, just moments ago, her boiled
rotten cabbage face had been disguised in silicone mask,
manicured wig, syrupy shrill.

This is how I imagine Joel Osteen gathers up
his ass in the morning: pearl-soft slippers,
molasses pomade, slick-fine comb the color
of tortoiseshell cat slicking all through his black black
all black hair. I imagine him rucking up
that banana grin in that doublewide mirror
he shares with some woman, some wife that smells
of a middle class hobby shop chain, allspice—

her name’s Victoria.
She likes turtlenecks. She likes Joel, his pomade head,
his, frankly, terrifying incisors.
Her mother taught the little children.
Her father was deacon of his own flock.
Like a frayed bird, she threw it down at the dive bar,
slamming back dirty Martinis—wild Vicky,
they called her, meaning they as my heart’s dream
that a woman can’t smell like allspice her entire life,
or roll around in bed and come upon Mister Banana
Grin, cheesing her dead in the eyes at the crack of dawn,
or coif her straw-dyed hair and pierce the pearl studs on,
day in and out, and walk around in her New York Times
Bestselling marriage—and not have had a touch of witch-magnifique
during some flimsy days in her untethered youth.

Wild Vicky, long dead now, except for the rare stiff Martini,
fat stuffed olive popping vinegar on her tongue.

So, what’s a shocking Joel?
A slob Joel? A bored Joel?
What’s shocking is a half-Joel—one arm, one ear,
one ball with one pubic hair,
one ankle. Grip it ‘n’ rip it, always. He grabbed the live wires,
both hands, the power welling in the small bones
of his fingers first, the radius bone next, then humerus and clavicle.
His mandible, opening and closing over
those LED billboard teeth which light
the pulpit, the stage, in an incandescent glow, saying, don’t
worry if I missed his exit, reminding
the next five will take me
to Lakewood either way. Reminding me I’m loved, still,
in some capacities, in Houston, in Atlanta, in Guadalajara where all my Catholic
grandmothers are buried with rosary beads—Joel’s love is going
now, slick and sweet as black-strap molasses.




KELLY BARRAZA holds an English Literature degree from Georgia State University. Her writing has previously appeared in The Allegheny Review, The Albion Review, The Sucarnochee Review, Monkeybicycle, ellipsis, and Underground.



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