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Looked up and saw on a telephone wire the most unbelievably beautiful black crow in East Oakland’s history. It held a single perfect Dorito chip in its beak. If I ever get a tramp stamp tattoo, it will be of this blessed triangulation. It will be of this holy trinity being bitten and broken for you. It will show the Orange crumbs of Christ raining from the mouth of a scavenging bird down my ass. At night, I will stand in the window that faces the street, my back, from the sidewalk—a corona of bathroom light, backdropped and draped in my grandmother’s disappointed heirloom lace curtains. The new church is a peep show. When the streetlamp comes on, I will begin tarrying and praying without ceasing, preparing to preach my first sermon. When the boyfriend and girlfriend recyclers, begin to clang-by around 3 a.m. singing, “Swing Low . . .” I will stop the reviving and begin talking in bird tongue, beakolalia, “Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Corvidae Corvus Linnaeus. Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Corvidae Corvus Linnaeus. Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Corvidae Corvus Linnaeus. Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Corvidae Corvus Linnaeus.” When the redemptionists, the can collectors, have slowed the pushing and pulling of their baskets & buggies long enough to choose me. Choose me God. To know this my grandmother’s uncle’s house, my grandmother’s house, my mother’s house, now mine. When they stop in front of 1165 and pour out the backwash libation of the MD 20/20 and the corners of beer and soda trapped by the bottle’s lips, they hum, “This beer will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I smell the beer, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Oakland.” I will know that I am blessed, my property taxes will get paid, my fence repaired, my garden planted, and painting completed. I will know my home, my life, my art, my family my love is all safe. A little black dog frolics down the street. Odd, but not strange. A large black dog, a pimp lurking back, follows—the little dog always in sight. I hear the Aché’s and the Hosannah’s and the cussing and the cursing from the commotion-aroused and awakened neighbors. I hear the garbage lids opening and closing like tombs. I hear the laughing and screaming and the cigarettes being flicked above the heads of possums and I begin the service with tithes and offerings, before passing the peace and before praise and worship, and before the word, because not even I am sure that I believe that the world profits from a self-proclaimed church that anoints and appoints some low old queen in East Oakland as its pastor.

Marvin K. White is a writer based in Oakland, California.

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