by Barbara Crooker
We are the only light faces in a sea of mahogany,
tobacco, almond, and this is not the only way
we are different. We've come in late, the choir
already singing, swaying to the music, moving
in the spirit. When I was down, Lord, when
I was down, Jesus lifted me. And, for a few minutes,
we are raised up, out of our own skepticism
and doubts, rising on the swell of their voices.
The singers sit, and we pass the peace, wrapped
in thick arms, ample bosoms, and I start to think
maybe God is a woman of color, and that She loves
us, in spite of our pale selves, so far away
from who we should really be. Parishioners
give testimonials, a deacon speaks of his sister,
who's "gone home," and I realize he doesn't mean
back to Georgia, but that she's passed over. I float
on this sweet certainty, of a return not to the bland
confection of wispy clouds and angels in nightshirts,
but to childhood's kitchen, a dew-drenched June
morning, roses tumbling by the back porch.
The preacher mounts the lectern, tells us he's been
up since four working at his other job, the one
that pays the bills, and he delivers a sermon
that lightens the heart, unencumbered by dogma
and theology. For the benediction, we all join hands,
visitors and strangers enfolded in the whole,
like raisins in sweet batter. We step through the door
into the stunning sunshine, and our hearts
lift out of our chests, tiny birds flying off to light
in the redbuds, to sing and sing and sing.
"The VCCA Fellows Visit the Holiness Baptist Church, Amherst, Virginia" by Barbara Crooker, from Line Dance. © Word Press, 2008.