Inside the little clapboard church
it must have been close to a hundred degrees.
There was not yet a full choir seated, but
those that were there were swaying
from foot to foot with the rhythm
that was internal, that was history.
Behind the silence I could hear
the humming of those around me,
the swish of stiff dresses
as women walked down the aisle
to the choir,
and the constant movement of hand-held fans
like a host of butterflies opening and closing,
opening and closing, turning sweat
into a cooling system.
The musician, an old black man
with a stark white turban,
walked over to the wounded upright, sat down,
and without a sheet of music
stabbed the ivories like he was infusing notes
into a dormant object. His fingers
looked like pieces of wood: hard, bent,
brown: like weapons,
weapons of music.
When his fingers touched the keys
the room became electric.
You could hear the intake of air by all those
in the hard wooden pews; preparing, praying
for the strength to last the night.
The first note was magic, but when the choir
bellowed out its voice to the spiritual
hymn "In the Air" I thought the spirit had
reached down and pulled the life right out
of my breast. Maybe I should take
a few deep breaths, too. But it was too late,
the spirit had been poured down and out
of the mouths of the choir and onto the people
in this old church, and the people couldn't sit down
they couldn't stand up, they swayed where they stood,
they shouted to Jesus where they stood,
they went into a trance, fallin out,
and had to be carried from the church.
At the end of the evening, the choir sang
quietly, and I could hear
the sobs, I could hear the joy expressed
by the congregation: amen glory to god halleujah
Jesus is his name, until the pianist stopped, got up
and went to the choir and embraced each one.
Then the little church was empty.