Sunday, June 28, 2009

The VCCA Fellows Visit the Holiness Baptist Church, Amherst, Virginia

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.

Into my heart an air that kills

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A E Houseman - The Shropshire Lad

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wild Peavines

Wild Peavines - By Robert Morgan

I have never understood how
the mountains when first seen by hunters
and traders and settlers were covered
with peavines. How could every cove
and clearing, old field, every
opening in the woods and even
understories of deep woods
be laced with vines and blossoms in
June? They say the flowers were so thick
the fumes were smothering. They tell
of shining fogs of bees above
the sprawling mess and every bush
and sapling tangled with tender
curls and tresses. I don't see how
it was possible for wild peas
to take the woods in shade and deep
hollows and spread over cliffs in
hanging gardens and choke out other
flowers. It's hard to believe the creek
banks and high ledges were that bright.
But hardest of all is to see
how such profusion, such overwhelming
lushness and lavish could vanish,
so completely disappear that
you must look through several valleys
to find a sprig or strand of wild
peavine curling on a weedstalk
like some word from a lost language
once flourishing on every tongue.

"Wild Peavines" by Robert Morgan, from Wild Peavines. © Gnomon Press, 1996.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flannery's Anger

Flannery's Angel by Charles Wright

Lead us to those we are waiting for,
Those who are waiting for us.
May your wings protect us,
                      may we not be strangers in the lush province of joy.

Remember us who are weak,
You who are strong in your country which lies beyond the thunder,
Raphael, angel of happy meeting,
                                                 resplendent, hawk of the light.

"Flannery's Angel" by Charles Wright, from Sestets: Poems. © Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2009.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reverence

Reverence

by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

The air vibrated
with the sound of cicadas
on those hot Missouri nights after sundown
when the grown-ups gathered on the wide back lawn,
sank into their slung-back canvas chairs
tall glasses of iced tea beading in the heat

and we sisters chased fireflies
reaching for them in the dark
admiring their compact black bodies
their orange stripes and seeking antennas
as they crawled to our fingertips
and clicked open into the night air.

In all the days and years that have followed,
I don't know that I've ever experienced
that same utter certainty of the goodness of life
that was as palpable
as the sound of the cicadas on those nights:

my sisters running around with me in the dark,
the murmur of the grown-ups' voices,
the way reverence mixes with amazement
to see such a small body
emit so much light.

"Reverence" by Julie Cadwallader-Staub, from Friends Journal. ©Religious Society of Friends.