I drive back to that tin-roofed concrete slab
of a building to face mine. The gravel lot,
the trailer our preacher camped in for a time,
whisper-singing out of tune praise songs
into an old tape recorder, as had been commanded
in a dream. This is the church where I loved
a boy who later would hang himself
with a garden hose because he could not stop
touching his sisters’ bodies. The one sister who huddled
at the edge of the worship circles, flinching from touch.
The other, who still greeted everyone as she walked the aisles,
arm hooked through an offering basket into which
many folded their checks as they looked away.
When it rained it sounded like hail. We believed,
then, in brimstone. We would circle and place
our hands upon our friends, confess to masturbation
and other hidden things. We prayed away
cancer and early onset arthritis. Once,
it was my sister’s friend in the center.
She was disabled, her hands and feet
straightened through multiple surgeries
and divine intervention, for, we were told,
she should not have lived as long
as she already had.
In our center
she shivers. It has been at least an hour, her body
the vessel our hands conduct the Holy Ghost into.
A healing light is blue, we are reminded. We all
see the blue light except for one of the elders
who has noticed the shivering and, he announces
in a holy tremor, there is something ill at work here.
Something we did not expect. A new trial:
that old inhabitant of swine, frothing, to be cast out,
whose name we will not now utter—“This child,”
he moans in holy dread—“is afflicted.”
The mud slung up by my caught wheel spatters
over any whisper I might will back, over the image
I’m tempted to conjure: myself, all righteous
anger, scattering the hunched circle with a horse whip
like the vendors outside the holy of holies…
Instead, my lank form, my pale hands pressed together,
warding off the wrong sort of evil.