Deep in Georgia
by Autumn Hill
Deep in Georgia’s heart, off to the left
In the season of the bare dogwood
Feeble and blessed,
I, aged six or seven had stood
Heavy enough to hear
The creaks in the floorboards
That guffed their scalded scent.
On Sundays the church bell rang
Leaden and hefty, drawing the crowd
Into the haven, across from the cotton field.
My grandmother held open the books of hymns.
I sat into her, underlining the thread of gospels
Between the bands of the piano’s written word.
Her eyes closed, voice croaky but softened--
harmony like a crowd of Alaga. They sang
so deep like the musk of tobacco, its haze seizing
my breath, mumbling underneath their roars.
They praised till the walls peeled like a blade to bark.
Stomping till they wore the bleeding carpet
Open. Dancing till they weren’t here no more
In the cloak of night they come for the church.
The wood collapses into heaps of hot ash
white capes like picket fences ignited
their rugged crosses, high in the sky, a message sent
crackling and churning with sin.
The Lord’s passages roar through the fire, flames take seat
in the pews, clutching hymns, melting praise into its bodies.
Afar, brown eyes glow, with no tears to extinguish anything.
Again, a building rises,
again, our songs sung,
squalls curling against the walls, shaking the deal doors.
Sun rays casting aglow the pulpit through empty windows.
Sisters and brother rise, slamming calloused hands
against the pew.
Shaking and convulsing,
chorus of wails
purer than the light
cleansing like fire.
High as the days where the sun swelters our skin
sweat the sweet scent of ash.
The piano dwindles in its wailing lament.
The now somber steps of keys dousing these familiar folk,
whose wrinkles I revere, more so, as they exhale a blackened breath.
Grandma, whose arms I am tucked under once again
slightly tremble with ache, creaking bones, scorched under flesh still.
Like a pillow of Sunday best, my head onto rests,
till the cooling moon waxes, summoning benediction.