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Sunday

It could have been the way the Southern man
in his navy suit and skin rocked
along the church wall, swaying to the tambourine
like an old man wobbling to blues.

Or the way Sister Nettie got the spirit
all in her feet and behind, quick-stepping
like an ant hill was under her toes,
shaking her head back and forth in disbelief—

Or the way Deacon Jones raised
both hands like the police were there,
and started pacing the pulpit—
a foreign street—looking for Jesus.

But something quick came over the church
when Walter's voice slid to his navel
and plucked a piece of umbilical cord,
tugging the notes from generations gone.

And a sister lost in the crowd screamed,
like when children have their first babies,
and screeching floated over the pews
and took the congregation rocking

Back to the first cry we made
in this freedom-stealing country—
the first shout on the auction block,
and we tried to clap our way out of memory,
to stomp out the sound like sparks of fire
but it was already voiced (and the seer had said,
this child would be different).

Stairway to Heaven


The queen grows fat beneath my house
while drones infest the walls

reconnaissance to feed her glut,
wood ripped from studs and joists.

I’ll pay to drill the slab and ruin
her pestilential nest. How to find 

the song in this day’s summons? 
I’ve been accused of darkness 

by my inner light. My brother sits 
in the chemo chair another long day 

of toxic infusion, the house of his body—
bones, brain and balls gone skeltering. 

I sit in my parked car listening 
to Robert Plant recall how the English 

envied the Americans for getting 
the blues, getting all of it, into song.

I remember the dream where 
brother and sister, adult and equal, 

lean and white as lilies, as bare, 
dove into a mountain lake, black water, 

high elevation, fir trees growing 
in flood water that had joined 

two lakes into one. Do you ever dream 
of animals, I ask him, hospice bed 

looking out on a plywood squirrel 
perched on cement block wall.
  
Frequently. A lilt of surprising joy. What kind?  
Mostly the jungle animals. Then: I’m going 

to do my exercises now. What exercises?  
I like pacing, he said, immobilized 

upon his death nest of nine pillows.
Then he closed his eyes to become the inward one 

whose only work was to wear a pathway 
back and forth within his enclosure. 

In Neglect

They leave us so to the way we took,
     As two in whom they were proved mistaken,
That we sit sometimes in the wayside nook,
With mischievous, vagrant, seraphic look,
     And try if we cannot feel forsaken.