Summer 2000


Marvin Bell


1. Shouting from Their Church

Artifice to make of it a boy's perception.
Handful to try to hold it long enough to see.
Imagine the wind-wrapped hallelujahs, the torment he heard outside.
Outside, the smell of tar and dead fish in the arm of Senix Creek.
The tabernacle at the raunchy end of town.
Bodies thumping, and their silver fillings glinting when parishioners cried out.
He stood away, curious, afraid.
It must have been Hell in there, and everyone frantic to be saved.
He could smell a thick coating of wax by the door.

2. Murmuring from the Synagogue

His family temple an ark for the Torah.
The old men straining to kiss the cloth that touched it.
The dizzying fast, the yearly ram's horn.
Inside, men rocking from the waist, their voices breaking.
It must have been Heaven that listened to their sad minor key.
Scent of sweaty jackets and the massive days of prayer.
Artifice to make of it now a boy's perception.

He did whatever he was told to.
Terrified by their pain and the smell of ashes.


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