TAMARA KREUTZ

Stumbling Blocks on the Mission Center’s Basketball Court

As a child of missionaries in rural Mexico, I learned the magic of entertaining myself without TV or other forms of entertainment. But the pressure to live as a light of the world nearly broke me. As I entered puberty, I believed my female body was a walking sin, putting in jeopardy the eternal destinies of males in the culture my parents had felt called to “minister to.” This poem comes from the weird whimsy of my childhood and the weight of it as well.

It is good not to . . . do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (Romans 14:21)

Softened by August heat, the blacktop tar took imprints of our spines. We swallowed our giggles, forced our lungs to release breath in tiny spurts of air. Shadows of circling vultures drew closer, closer to my best friend and me—so near we could see their pleated, leathery heads. Like mini girl-Lazarus’s, we rose, leaping and laughing, shrieking, flapping our arms as vultures flapped their wings and fled. We were still free in our bodies, our chests nearly flat, though with tingling bulbs just sprouting beneath our skin. We didn’t know our missionary mothers watched us play, ticking off days until we’d need to be covered in tops too baggy for our frames, or that they’d say we couldn’t lie on the blacktop anymore with our arms outspread. Our shirts might rise above belly buttons, those chalices of temptation, or might tightly caress our breasts—and we, God’s tiny witnesses, could make men’s minds stumble over our bodies toward Hell.

Tamara Kreutz lives with her family in Guatemala, where she teaches high school English literature at an international school. Tamara is an MFA candidate at Pacific University. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Rattle, River Heron Review, and Stonecoast Review, among other publications. Poetry gives her grounding in a life full of moving pieces. Instagram and Threads: @tamara_kreutz.

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