How to Make a Gunbox Hymnal

Sneak your mother’s sharpest knife into the sanctuary.

While everyone else prays, slash a perfect golden rectangle from each page.

On one of the scraps, draw filthy pictures of St. Paul & his thorn.

Fold another into the raven who refused to return to Noah’s hand.

Tear the remnants into strips. Write a dirty joke. Write your mother’s most secret fear. Write your unspoken name. It’s okay if they all say the same thing.

Pretend to be a prophet in a dry spell. Eat as many leftover hymns as you can until your stomach goes sour.

Stop. Listen to the pastor’s opening reading, the Gospel of Matthew, the fifth chapter & thirtieth verse.

Slice off your right hand. Hide it in the hymnal’s hollow. Don’t be alarmed when the fingers twitch up into a fist. Close the book. Slide it back in place behind the pew.

Stand with the congregation. Raise your good hand to God before it too goes bad.

Sing. You don’t need to look. You know these words by heart.

Brandon Thurman
Brandon Thurman is the author of the chapbook Snake Handling (Quarterly West, 2018). His poetry can be found in Nashville Review, Ninth Letter, The Journal, RHINO, The Blueshift Journal, and others. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with his husband and son. You can find him online at or on Twitter @bthurman87.