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Carrie Jerrell

Posted by admin on December 26, 2011

Carrie  Jerrell received her MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and her PhD from Texas Tech University. A three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, she is an assistant professor of English at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky and serves as the poetry editor for Iron Horse Literary Review.

 

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After the Revival

We gather at the river in our polyester blends.
We gather in our sunburnt skins,
sore from the daylong sermon, a bright
congregation of frailties. To my right,
a man cleans his trifocals with his shirtfront.
To my left, a woman taps her titanium knee,
says, It’ll outlast me. From weed
and willow edging the bank, the vellum
whir of yellowjackets stirs my hand
to touch three scars from childhood stings
along my jaw, three scars from the day
of my baptism, three stings as I stood
by the river, my throat swelling and swelling
until I dropped to my knees in the clearing,
my hair still wet when my father at last laid
one hand on my shoulder, prayed,
Spare my daughter, then jammed the EpiPen
into my thigh. By which I was saved,
the plea or the needle, I can’t say,
but before breath rattled its wings
behind my teeth again, I witnessed
the bunched velvet of thunderclouds
drag the distant ridgeline like a robe’s
soiled trim across the nails. My own Sinai,
my burning bush, I should have prophesied
but couldn’t, too numb, unsure, and only twelve,
though the elders stood with their amens
poised around me. Since then, my throat’s
been numbed by different means: horrors of love;
horrors of doubt; a sister’s child laid to rest
in a wet grave; my father’s stumbling
over stones in the fields he’s plowed,
two black spots blooming in each of his eyes.
I’ve trusted too often the lens doctored
in chemical heat and not the eyes behind
my eyes, but this evening, after new humbling
and hymns tendered by failed voices, I see
that each willow leaf backlit by the apricot sun
is actually a candle set aglow and hovering.
My father stands there in invisible water,
blessing the baptized, his hands reading
their faces, and the air around him is quick
with thousands of wings. O Death,
so proud in your jacket of cheeriest yellow,
this world is a dark cloak I tire of wearing.
Take my eyes and hands. Take my throat
and the songs it traps, and I will still
remember those promises made in the shapes
of rivers. I am waiting for you here
on bended knees. Do not hide from me now.

 

        From Volume IV, Issue 2, 2009.