Pentecost by R.T. Smith

                  for John Foster West


Squint-eyed and cunning, its tongue split

like a wishbone, the canebrake sulls up,

cursive spine and the diamonds in spiral

like genetic code,


and Joby frets the Stratocaster, its plastic

the color of a salted ham.  A tambourine’s

discs shiver, and Brother Pascal wields the Book’s

hot gospel like a blunt instrument.  This is


spirit.  This is bliss.  The words from Heaven

would almost strangle you.  The Holy Ghost

is a rough customer alright,

and if someone comes for healing touch,


for translation into a mended soul,

a whole body, let him lie beside the altar

all shorn and shocked and willing, sing amen, say

grace abounding.


and the current sizzles, the tail beads buzz,

as the road to Zion is not all gleam-gold.

Wind scratching poplar limbs

against cracked board-and-batten says


stormy heart.  You can translate any syllable

into yearning, the Lord’s will,

as the rattler agitates, this being winter,

his deep sleep stolen by a prophet’s


hands clapping, raw notes of “power

in the blood.”  He’s a mean

messenger, unguessable, and Brother Harvey

Robbins now cradling him


has the look of a man ready for crisis.

Come rapture, come venom,

that double ivory stab so quick you’re

not sure at first, then certain.  It leaves limbs


withered but quickened.  For some of us

in the lantern light, in the Carver’s Cove

church house where the floor rattles

like a loom room, a coal scuttle:


we know something is coming.

Snake-shakers, Holy Rollers, Faith

Healers from over in Silva or up in Teague,

we feel the wild muscle contract.


It’s no cakewalk to dance the devil

down.  Uproot and undercut,

but something is coming right

now, something good.  Leave your


coppers and dollars in the collection plate.

The moon out there is empty, visible

as a skillet in night sky.

The whoosh of angel feathers is coming,


the serpent’s hiss, the new dialect

we will sing to spring sowing, hallelujah.

On a good night the serpent will crown

some beloved brow like braided brocade


and idle there, benign, as we begin

the mortal bargain, breathe the honey air

of  limber love and behold

as the jaws open for a half-sought kiss.


Crystals in the hourglass glisten and summon,

the weave of bequeathed bliss,

birthright of the cursed helix.

Sister, keep your eye on the cross,


take my hand.  The words will come.


Issue 2

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