An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

August, 1959: Morning Service

Beside the open window
on the cemetery side,
I drowsed as Preacher Lusk gripped
his Bible like a bat snagged
from the pentecostal gloom.
In that room where heat clabbered
like churned butter, my eyes closed,
freed my mind into the light
on the window’s other side,
followed the dreamy bell-ring
of Randy Ford's cows across
Licklog Creek to a spring pool
where orange salamanders swirled
and scuttled like flames. It was
not muttered words that urged me
back to that church, nor was it
the hard comfort of pews rowed
like the gravestones of my kin,
but the a cappella hymn
sung by my great-aunt, this years
before the Smithsonian
taped her voice as if the song
of some vanishing species,
which it was, which all songs are,
years before the stroke wrenched her
face into a gnarled silence,
this morning before all that
she led us across Jordan,
and the gravestones leaned as if
even the dead were listening.

 

Published in Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 2000).
Text may vary slightly from the video reading.

Published: 6 December 2007
© 2007 Ron Rash and Southern Spaces