Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Damned If

When we left the room, still locked in character
by tartan jumpers and the beetle-wings of our mary
janes, my sister said the people had been creepy.

Inside, we’d joined a circle of clammy hands
while strangers rocked and shuddered, babbled
in tongues. In the rearview mirror, my father’s eyes

hovered. This, he said, was God’s native tongue—the language
we needed to get help. But I didn’t feel God in that room.
Instead: stir-fried syllables, unfamiliar touch. Voices

untangled from sense, soaking me in a burning
spring. It was a kind of pleasure: mind drowsy, eyes vague
at the blackboard, the slate of night hanging velvet

down the windows. Like a crown of light, this fervor
was almost enough to make you believe in it, a show of force:
ocean smashing up under an edifice of rock.

Absent of meaning, the boom and crash of it was still
enough to shake me, pin me on my back at night, expecting
the floor to open into some deep dark below.  

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