poem



by Willie Carver



Waiting for God



I was excited and nervous to be baptized, because I thought it would make me brand new like a toy still tied up and glued to its packaging and also keep me from going to hell.


In the three days until my baptism, I still had fifth-grade homework, and on a Thursday evening salted thick with dogwood and cool spring air, my mom joined me. We stretched out on the tired hood of her car under the Gregorian hum of a crackling housing project parking lot streetlight so that I could color in the phases of the moon with a pencil. She brought out a blanket and even let me sip some weak black coffee.


“Do you think God will wait until Sunday before the end of the world? What if he came tonight and I went to hell?”


She brought the cover around my shoulders and her frayed and overworked arms anointed the bargain-bin blanket with the power to embrace me.


She gestured upwards: “The same God that put them stars in the sky didn’t do it so he

could send

you to hell. He holds them up for a reason. He’ll wait on you.”


The dark sky became an aquarium of sparks and love and every fish had a name.


Those three days stretched into three decades; despite the baptism, preachers and lawmakers and winners and losers and lovers and haters and people with tongues and arms hot like red irons would over and over again hold my head underwater, hoping that the metal hiss of steam would mock me as I drowned.


But with each plunge under, the darkness of the water would part and fish made of stardust would lay hands on me and dance in the spirit.


 

Willie Carver Jr. has spent his entire life dedicated to student success. He holds degrees in French and English from Morehead State University, where he focused his studies on advocacy for students, particularly first generation, Appalachian, and minoritized students. He began his work in eastern Kentucky, later studying and teaching in France. In 2022, Carver was named Kentucky Teacher of the Year and Ambassador to the Kentucky Department of Education, where he created a platform of inclusion and advocacy for LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and Appalachian students. His work has been published in Kentucky Teacher, Education Week, and EdPost. Carver’s story has been featured on NBC, PBS, NPR, and others. His upcoming poetic memoir, Gay Poems for Red States, will be published early next year by the University Press of Kentucky.