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Within Shouting Distance of the Coosa


Once in Alabama when I was young
and given to aimless ambling,
I followed a red road between pines
where even at midday the cicadas
were complaining, and with nothing
on my mind and expecting nothing
I was about to pause for water
when the road's weedy roughness
opened to a clearing where boards
wounded by years of weather
formed a modest church, the peak
of its steeple gone and door scotched
open. The wind was scattering pollen,
and somewhere off in the needles
a mockingbird thought it was evening
and half-heartedly sang. Do I need
to say I forced the door and found
everything rain-soaked and broken,
the pews only planks whose cinder
blocks had fallen or were, as I've said,
ruined? But I heard a hum or what
I thought could be a hymn rising
from behind the altar and squinted
to see the worker bees dance and circle
where they'd swarmed. Young
as I was, I understood "not one step
closer, do not disturb," so backed
away, because I knew they believed
their honey holy and would not
suffer it to be troubled without
rushing to beset me, and besides I'd
already been touched by the Word
and held under down at the river
till I heard God's gold voice shining,
insects swarming the choir's serenade,
bee sound the very sound He made.


R. T. Smith

Pleiades

Issue 32:1


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