by M. Brett Gaffney

My teacher handed me the coloring book
and a pack of Crayola, said stay in the lines.

I turned the pages, flimsy kid paper,
not strong enough to hold these pictures,

these images outlined in thick black,
Christ’s hard journey to Golgotha.

I took the blue crayon, filled in the sky,
Mary’s shawl, the birds perched in trees.

Brown for the cross, the dirt, careful
to keep from coloring His hands

where he fell— three pages of falling.
I tried using yellow to brighten the sun,

green to grow the palm leaves, purple
for his apostles, their long robes

like protective layers of skin. I emptied
the box until only one crayon was left.

I put it to each page: Pilate’s hands, Roman
armor, thorns, the faces of Jerusalem women,

cheeks rose-blown with tears, nails—
all red, like blood like wine like crayon,

the book bursting with it, spine now spread
so wide I could not close it, so I colored

until I brought Him back down, until my crayon
broke in two, its pieces like bones in my hand.


M. BRETT GAFFNEY holds an MFA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University. Her poems have appeared in Exit 7, Rust+Moth, Permafrost, Devilfish Review, museum of americana, BlazeVOX, Apex Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, and Zone 3, among others, and her chapbook Feeding the Dead is available from Porkbelly Press. She works as co-editor of Gingerbread House and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her partner and their dog Ava. Connect with her at: mbrettgaffneyblog.wordpress.com


Photo: “Crucifixes” by Queen of the Universe