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Sunday Mornings

I composed this poem during a church service a long time ago. The people around me assumed I was taking notes on the sermon. I didn't realize it then, but this was the beginning of my deconstruction.

An earlier version of this poem was published under a different name in a small college journal, and then again in Heartlands magazine.

Sculptured image of the Bible story Daniel in the Lion's Den
Daniel in the Lion's Den sculpture. Artist George Beck / photographer unknown. Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery

Sunday Mornings


Prayer recitals in early service sound like hospital admission papers.

Nothing else happens here but these slow clocks, winding down.

I'm dismayed by a choir director with dyed hair,

run over by accent and off-key dragging-on of end notes,

but I'm still a believer.


I believe I'm just fine, wiggling in this straight-backed pew

until a woman blows by with hairspray and perfume. I weep,

overcome with allergy, praise Jesus.


After the neighbor-greeting portion of the show has passed

the preacher sees I haven't clapped my hands

and he performs an autopsy to check for divine blood.

Dim the lights! he cries, Circle this girl's body with flame,

place the leftover crumbs of Polly's cracker on her tongue.

The congregation carries my body outside into evening,

shouts Revival! to far hills, to numbered stars,

believing celebration solves logistical problems

like fevers, lost puppies, and combat veterans

whose brains bleed on the altar, whose bones corrode sacred.

They bind me to a night tree, under which savages

have heaped the sacrificial sour rinds,

sing Hallelujah under a frosty moon.


Some wander back to rest in the sanctuary,

sinking into hushed carpet and thick cushions.

They dream of tamed lions with soft, panting breath.

Published in Heartlands: A Magazine of Midwest Life & Art, Volume 4, Fall 2006

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