Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Pentecostals, 1948


Week after week
they climbed their six splintered
pentecostal stairs to dance
like wonderful trained
bears, climbing, falling,
singing, their hands that ordinarily
held books or washed babies
or sometimes counted out money
to pay the milkman,
clapping,

clapping joy
as if they held tambourines,
laughing, their eyes lit
with some inner glory like a fire:

Oh holy, holy, they sang
and tossed their heads to a strong
upbeat rhythm. Oh brother, oh sister,
Oh holy, their housekeys jangling
in their pockets, their coins jingling
as the plate was passed.

What would I have dropped
that summer night--absolved--into their plate
as they danced, howling their songs
holy, and more holy, like a circus troupe,
but my ignorance, an offering of
my two dazed eyes,
my pious, stunned tongue,
my baseball,
my cap pistol and a red roll of caps,
a white Life Saver, and
four glass black marbles still warm
from my hand?

Outside
under the glass-black sky and looking in
at their window, it was awesome,
and I wished I knew the words.

8 comments:

paris parfait said...

Such a powerful poem! Well done.

Tammy said...

Wow, I felt like I was looking in that window. Beautiful job!

Deb R said...

Oh, that was so cool! I felt like I was right there in the dark, looking in the window and watching them dance.

pepektheassassin said...

When I was about nine years old, my dad played baseball with a local league. On some nights when they had a game, my friend and I would sneak off to the church and peek in the window. My baby-sitter, a heavy older lady named Dorothy, went to that church, and once fell off the piano bench and broke her leg. It was the only church in town with a steeple, and one very windy night, it blew right off! Last time I went back home, the church was still there--minus the steeple.

January said...

Great poem! I especially like this stanza:

"What would I have dropped
that summer night--absolved--into their plate
as they danced, howling their songs
holy, and more holy, like a circus troupe,
but my ignorance, an offering of
my two dazed eyes,
my pious, stunned tongue,
my baseball,
my cap pistol and a red roll of caps,
a white Life Saver, and
four glass black marbles still warm
from my hand?"

Wow!

twitches said...

This is great description of how magical this must have looked to you then - those ordinary people transformed. I love "six splintered stairs" too.

liz elayne said...

this is just fantastic. the moment when i realized you were looking through the window made me smile. love thinking about a child taking all of this in.
beautiful.

wendylou who? said...

In childhood, we are found to be closer tt God than we know...but long for the trappings and mystery of ritual...this was very well done...I loved the contents of the hands and pockets.