Gospel River

Despite my animosity toward Sunday
school and church: the huge helmets of grey hair
capped by tight buns, flung back in hallelujahs;
the spirit-filled oxblood wingtips loping
to and from hard seats, and all the cloth—
giant flowery dresses billowing up aisles,
flapping dark suits and long ties lolling
like colorful tongues, huge smothering drapes
on everything—I loved to sink into rows
of pews with others. Our round backs ached
and stretched against unforgiving waterlines
of wood as we flowed down the river of sorrow
and loss, yowling and drowning like wolves.

Ron Houchin is the author of the acclaimed poetry collection The Man Who Saws Us in Half (LSU Press, 2013), as well as five previous collections: Museum Crows, Birds in the Tops of Winter Trees, Among Wordless Things, Moveable Darkness, and Death and the River. A retried public high school teacher, he lives on the banks of the Ohio River across from Huntington, West Virginia, where he grew up.

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