James Ryer : Poetry : Dec 2020

My SLS varies with my mood and the moon. Sometimes I think about how race relations and people’s perspectives have and have not changed. Sometimes it’s as simple as what’s on the table for dinner. Sometimes it’s about the overarching kindness you find and share through even casual acquaintances. Sometimes Faulkner’s quote “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” says it all.

Alone In the Old Wooden Church

After Jericho Brown

I enter and resign myself to the back of the old wooden church
Sitting in an unoccupied pew, I lean back and let it all sink in

The preacher thunders his way through the sermon
Lighting up his Sunday gospel message 
With fiery admonitions from the Old Testament 
Mixing in a measure of New Testament compassion 
Firing up the congregation until they stand and shout

Hallelujah … Praise the Lord

Thank You Jesus … Thank You Jesus

He shouts louder still while never losing his cadence and his pious fury
Never wavering in his intensity to prepare them to meet their Savior 
Unrelenting in his desire to save their souls

Understand that I revel in this spiritually uplifting cacophony of fire and fury
That I love being part of this community of faith
Insulated in a confluence of black folk who all look comfortingly like me

Some are my kinfolk
Others are childhood friends
Some I remember only as ghosts

Quietly, I sit alone in my pew … hidden in the shadows … lost in my thoughts

And blindingly afraid

Afraid someone will call me out as a young gay man
When the creed for that offense goes very much like this:
Unworthy in God’s eyes
Cannot be allowed into the kingdom of God
Destined to travel the unrepentant sinner’s path to hell

To be judged harshly even by these good souls sitting in my midst

But I truly love this old wooden church
I love its weathered heart-pine timbers
And the soulful sounds that come from the floorboards 

I resolve to come back to my beloved sanctuary 

Sitting completely alone in the front row pew
With just my God looking kindly on
Comforting my conflicted heart