The Conversion of Magdaleno the Leper by Robin Myers

The Conversion of Magdaleno the Leper

God loves me.
But he didn’t always.

When I was young, and before
my limbs started crumbling
like fungus off a tree,
he hated me
so much that he wasn’t there at all.

He was nothing,
he was nowhere, and I
wasn’t even that.
I sucked the blood from women,
poisoned men,
drank liquor from the ground.

If God had been the ground,
I would
have drunk him too.

Then the disease.
My flesh like peeling bark,
my limbs all numb. My skin
like what a fire didn’t want.
Nothing did.
So when

I myself got to wanting nothing,
when I was on my belly spitting
dust, God said
from nowhere, Now
I see that you want

God was nothing,
but I heard him.
He was nothing and I believed him.
My legs were charred, but I got up
in the way I could—

I would have rather died
and he made me live.

When God is nothing
and nothing wants you
you live.

I live sitting down. I live
sending prayers like lightning
into the ground,
since my body’s like a tree
burned through by lightning now.

He loves me.
When you love nothing
and you live,
it’s love.


Robin Myers' work has been published in Tupelo Quarterly, Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, and the Kenyon Review (as the winner of the 2004 Kenyon Review Poetry Prize for Young Writers). She also received an honorable mention in the Atlantic Monthly 2008 Student Writing Contest. Robin was a resident writer at the Vermont Studio Center this fall.