Poetry

November 9, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Jerónimo Bernot photo

 

By

Mark Williams

 

 

 

In the Choir Loft

 

 

1968

 

 

Martin Luther King is dead and I am in the choir loft,

where our teenage class meets every Sunday

at Western Heights Baptist Church—a misnomer in the sense

that before our church was built, the low-lying lot

was filled with dirt just to bring it to street level.

 

When I wasn’t in the choir loft, I was playing the piano,

accompanying Larry Wild Man Erwin on organ.

He once played “Money Can’t But Me Love” as an offertory

and sometimes chose hymns with “blood” in the lyrics,

knowing Mrs. Crow would faint in her pew.

 

Once when I wasn’t in the choir loft,

I was in the vestibule with my father

as he pleaded with our Congressman

to get us out of Vietnam. Another time,

I was in Pastor Everett’s office discussing

 

“The Brothers Karamazov,” the scene

where The Grand Inquisitor tells Christ

he’s not needed anymore, that since

people don’t know what to do with their freedom,

those in control will do all the thinking.

 

And once Pastor Everett, his eyes enlarged

by wire-rimmed, thick glasses, told me,

“The one thing I know for sure, is God is all-loving.

I can’t believe an all-loving God

would condemn anyone to Hell.”

 

But for now, Martin Luther King has just been killed

and I am in the choir loft with my friends. “Intermarriage

is the answer,” our teacher, Carl Barnhardt, says,

his white face turned toward our white faces. “Eventually,

everyone will be brown, and we’ll all get along.”

 

At sixteen, I can’t imagine that fifty years from now

things will be little different. Hate speech will render hate.

Hate will render package bombs and bullets.

Bullets, blood. That in 2018, an angry malevolent man

will tell us what to think.

 

*

 

Recently, I heard that the church once known as Western Heights

prohibits membership to gays.

Even my old church has sunk.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Williams

Mark Williams attends reunions in Evansville, Indiana. His writing has appeared in The Hudson ReviewThe Southern ReviewIndiana ReviewRattleNimrodThe American Journal of Poetry, Poets Reading the News, and the anthologies, New Poetry From the Midwest and American Fiction. This is his second appearance in Tuck Magazine.

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