Cold in a creek, briefly submerged
in the enactment of a gospel verse.
Swiftly the preacher buoyed me,
delivered me to the breathing world
and praises both hymmed and hummed.
The soil of my sins had rinsed away
in water beads, now shiver-shaken free.
A deep breath had drawn me into spirit
and spirit had been drawn into me.
Stacked before the Sunday altar rail
like kindling wood set to burn,
I was bent and kneeling for prayer,
humble in posture, my face angled down.
Vision turned inward for refuge in solitude,
and my eyes pulled shut like temple curtains
that gave borders to a portion of privacy.
I mouthed the ritual prelude and then
every confession intended for the holiness
that drew closer to overhear.
Elders all around began to lay on hands
and call my name for blessings they begged.
I softly spoke the litany of my needs
and simmered within the rising swelter
of gradually pressing anticipation.
I was not certain of myself.
Overlaid voices lost their sense and
I felt myself sway like a wind-tugged leaf,
growing giddy or dizzy or maybe overcome...
Foreign words came to my tongue and my lips,
and my hands lifted to touch the unseen
garments of this unseeable apparition.
How exotic to testify in ghostly speech
of this bubbling ecstasy, this sacred autism
in which the whole of time and truth
might have flickered and been forgotten.
But I returned to myself, left overflowed
by evaporating tears and fading tremors,
and all the proof I would need.
About the Poem
This poem speaks about a phenomenon that was pretty common during my time in the evangelical, fundamentalist church. The act is more typically known as "speaking in tongues" and is often cited as an example of the unusual worship practices of born-again Christians. I have personally had this encounter on more than one occasion. The poem tries to describe the kind of spiritual ecstasy into which one must enter for such a thing to occur.
This poem is previously unpublished in print. This poem was finished September 8, 2006.