Some Keep the Sabbath

This article originally appeared in Southern Exposure Vol. 11 No. 1, "'We'll Never Quit:' Yellow Creek Concerned Citizens fight for clean water." Find more from that issue here.

You squirm and wiggle on my lap

sweaty as I, your cotton skirt, like mine,

clinging to legs and thighs, your hair

a wet blur across your scalp, your spirit

strangely weighted by the atmosphere.

Your eyes take in the rows and rows of people.

Families with mannered kids and cooing babes

old men who wheeze, women whose palsied heads

are bowed in prayer or raised in praise.

You will bring questions to me.

The singing, broken harmony, uneven unison

the words so unfamiliar you make no attempt to follow,

listening, instead, as my strange alto confidently moves

with organ’s plain, slow steps, piano’s bright accompaniment.

Your eyes most often go that way.

The hands that play those keys are hands whose warmth you know.

The sermon, spoken by a man younger than I

yet years more fervent, the sermon bores you

so you squirm and bounce and do the things

no four-year-old who’s used to church would do

and I, knowing you’ve given my secret out

contemplate the comments that will

buzz along the rows of butterbeans

rustle in the cornfields

and flit around the corners of Cox’s grocery.

The invitation hymn begins,

oozing around us as we cling

to what is still familiar — just each other.

I find one hand touching your shoulder

feel my knees tighten around your legs

only the limp cotton of our skirts

knowing the desperation of my grip.