I have never been able to pray
on my knees with my hands clasped,
never could make my spirit nod its head
when the preacher men roared
about gardens with their gates shut tight–
everywhere I looked
a rusty garden gate hung wide open:

I mean, sunrise crawls up over catbrier
deep behind my grandfather’s house,
out past the pile of moonshine bottles
and brown Clorox jugs asleep in the dirt,
a congregation of chipmunks
hold fellowship in the rusting belly
of a blue Ford older than Methuselah.

I learned all my church hymns
from the yellow-throated vireos
that warble in the high dark of Conecuh,
where fawn bones and old glass
gleam up out the pine needles,

once, I waded out where the lilies sway
in the slippery clear Cahaba,
tumbled under and gasped back up
washed cold to my bones,
the closest I ever came to baptism,

and the only perilous serpent
I ever came across on Oak Mountain
never said a thing about temptation
just warned me off with his rattle
and slithered down into the kudzu.

Anyway, I liked that story
about a man swallowed up
and spat back out in the end

so often I need to go down
the throat of an Alabama wild
stew awhile alone in its humid belly
and finally surface humbled
and a little more faithful.

— Adam Kamerer

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