I composed this long ago during my deconstruction, in a place called The Honors College, which was a necessary part of my journey. Thank you, Norb.
An earlier version of this poem was first published in a small college journal, and then later in the magazine Heartlands.
Prayer recitals in early service sound like hospital admission papers.
Nothing else happens here but these slow clocks, winding down.
I'm dismayed by the grating voice of 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 leftover crumbs 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.
They sing Hallelujah under the 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.