written on 17 November 2021 by Joann Renee Boswell

Art by Nat Iwata

The last decade or so I spent a lot of time critiquing my spiritual formation. I've written dozens of poems tearing down theology that I used to believe, but now I find to be dangerously flawed. It has been very important work for me. And because of this work, I've found that I'm ready to explore which parts of my spiritual formation have remained with me in a deeply positive way. I loved my childhood, and I love who I am, and who I am growing to be. I feel true gratitude for everyone and everything that's shaped and supported me. Including, it turns out, small town American conservative Christianity.



before I've even begun, I know
this poem will drift into cliches

the majesty of the mystical
is vague by nature

elusive buttercup caught on the breeze
hint of yellow pulling my peripheral

that divine lemon flash
all around and never fully digested

                                    this is a thank you
                                    to small town Christianity

training wheel structure
teaching basic appreciation for the soul

ghostly goddess, so shy
had to learn all the rules

oh the game! endless hide
and seek! such simple guidelines to start:

the answer's always "Jesus"!
my love for humanity began there

tender golden sprout sneaking toward Light
learning songs and compassion

we all thought I was daffodil
honey-sweet, simply following

sun-patterns, etched sky laws
            — but I am Lightening

startling champagne promise
we're all so much more

free once we know
which restrictions to break —

no child is meant to crawl forever
clapping merrily along to the service

                                    so, again, thank you Sunday School
                                    for the gilded maze and Nilla wafers

                                                                                    my spirited flight
                                                                        launched in your snug walls