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Sparks

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fall 96

volume 5 issue 3

"Man Running 1" by Stacy Tartar

Contents

Ernest Slyman
New York Public Library, August 1973
Ray Heinrich
cats dancing with dogs under the moon (for my father)
yet to come (for my father)
bosnia
janet kuypers
father's tears
oh mother
William C. Burns, Jr.
All Those Poor Gray Yups
Ravenous Kiss
Robert Klein Engler
The Pleasure Promised by that Recruitment Must Be Very Great Indeed
TEN COURT PIECES
David Hunter Sutherland
SNOW PIPE
Karen King
GONE TO GLORY
Contributors

Sparks: A Magazine for Creative People ISSN#: 1077-4149
Editors: Jim and Stacy Esch
Sparks Copyright ©1996 by Jim and Stacy Esch. All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the authors upon publication.
Web Published in the USA
Sparks is published four times a year. We welcome your submissions. Send all correspondence to the address below.
email: jmesch@artsci.wustl.edu
Sparks Online available at http://las.alfred.edu/~sparks/sparkspage.html



Ernest Slyman

ERSlyman@MSN.com

New York Public Library, August 1973

And childlike wanting to know something of this life,
The last generous indispensable push behind it
Seemingly appropriate and nimbly made of grass,
Green as the words which enter the world through the hole
In our shoes or the deep affection of nails in wood,
The diminish and undiminished winds that blow down
The days, only billowing in our minds the one far world
In which love has rent its emotional chaos
On our faces once so calm and quiet,
And stopped the wild rushing waves
Of joy from killing us.
No less abundance of bad times,
No more scarcity of sadness
In the forever of now--
The simple having simply lost touch
With the holy nonsense which prevails,
White-mouthed in the dry mansions
Of summers, freshly painted on the spines
Of books that murmur our futures.


Ray Heinrich

ray@vais.net

cats dancing with dogs under the moon (for my father)

Sometimes we all get too caught up in life
in death and i can understand some of this now
but you know it's a smooth place like a
spring day where we slide from start to finish
just like the weeds the dandelions or roses
some wanted some not but it is all the waves
one after the other each meant each beautiful
in its way we flow one after the other as
important as ants as insignificant and
as beautiful as clouds.

yet to come (for my father)


we can write while the ship loads
now
even now when whole bodies and minds
can be saved
these little words
like pictures of flowers
mean something
something like seed
you were the seed
before your eyes
opened on this world
the first looks and amazement
at the colors
at the movement
and a hand reaches
and later
you know
it was your hand reaching
for the toys suspended
above your bed
and you
waking from an infant's sleep
thinking only in images
these words
these words
were yet to come

bosnia

The procession comes down this single street
in the town you always thought it was your
own but in dreams at night it is the same so
it can't be real you tell the person lying
by your side who you thought you'd been
married to for 10 or was it 25 years this
slides like your other visions it's possible
that there has been no one all these years
that they were all dreams even if their
names were pat and philip and susan and
michael and ginger and ginger just had to be
real in this world that possesses no more
than 16 colors and tomorrow it will be time
to stop all this time to make the only
decision allowed and it will come as fast as
the end as slow as your words wanting to
reach that ginger to tell her or was it him
or a vegetable used in the soup that
comprised your life as sacred as the cow in
that mcdonald's hamburger or that ant you
stepped on in 1989 while taking out the
garbage which had as much an idea of where
as you do now sitting trying to decide which
is the greater sin while sitting on the
railing of the highest bridge in your home
town not high enough like new york or tokyo
or london or moscow not high enough as
she and he comes to take your hand and
you call out mother you call out father
knowing all of you are dead and the
aliens coming across the border have taken
your house and jobs and just like bosnia you
remember the slow pleasure of holding your
hands around your neighbor's neck or was it
the stereo and the cd's you wanted never
enough to have them gone forever but maybe
just a little while just until you listened
to the last chords of orchestra of the slow
sun dissolving into the next day where you
promise yourself knowing it's a lie but
hoping to fool this love you made up this
god you made up this smooth even transition
into the level plain of museums of ideas
never mentioned of the shortest day of the
year which has the longest night.

janet kuypers

ccandd@shout.net

father's tears


I never really knew him.
I knew the smell of his workboots
from the construction site,
I knew the smell of the martinis
waiting for him at home.
I knew the sound of his walk:
his ankles cracking,
his keys rattling.
I knew the sternness of his voice,
and I knew
that around me
he only smiled for photographs.

Emotions had their place for him.
He reserved happiness for friends,
anger for home.
In everything he did and felt
he showed strength and power.

I've seen him cry twice.

Once he cut his hand with a saw.
I saw fabric four inches thick
soaked with blood around his hand.
I saw the drops of blood on the car seat.
He drove himself to the hospital.
He was always in control.
But I heard the tears of pain in his voice.
I stood in the driveway and cried.

Once I heard him arguing with a friend.
I heard his voice from the hallway,
but I didn't recognize his voice at all:
it sounded confused, weak. Distraught.
I walked up to the door,
looking through the square window.
His voice choked and gasped.
The muscles in his face were contorted,
and it was as if the wrinkles
in his eyebrows cried,
"How could you hurt me so?
How could you do this to me?"
It was as if he screamed at being weak.

I moved away from the door
before he could see me. But I still
heard his voice; I had to run outside.

I think I didn't want to believe
that he was human.



oh mother


perspiration
muscles tense
bring it all
in to the ground
resistance
fight the senses
keep control
as the energy
slowly secapes
from the pores
of your body
anxiety
frustration
you can't run away
you can't escape
the pressure
the conflict
breath quickening
heart beating
faster and
faster
shake and
shiver
the trauma
too great
the exhaustion
you can't
give in
but you must
so you collapse
at the stress
and let
the shovels
throw the dirt
over your
head



William C. Burns, Jr.

BURNSWCB@kodiak.gvltec.edu

All Those Poor Gray Yups

All the poor yups
Smashed into
their credit limits
Volvos over the cliff
turning end over end
Exploding on impact
like one of those science films
We had to watch
lest it go on our permanent record

All those poor
poor yups
Hip deep in software
and panicked
I mean scared
Resurrecting
or at least exhuming T. S. Elliot
Hoping for a little . . .
well . . .
Blood
or something

All those poor yups
Gathered around the big T's coffin
Wishing they knew
a ritual chant or something
anything
Don't you remember
We threw those away?
T. S. sits up
grimly surveying the lot
"Oh, Mister Eliot
we only got everything we ever wanted
and we are so unhappy
sooooo very unhappy."

Marble lips part
"Well duhhhh!"


Ravenous Kiss

She told me
About the blood hungry
ravenous kiss of the snow

She leaned her head back
exposing her neck
Drinking the Sky

Silent
I allowed the moment
to empty itself



Robert Klein Engler

GayPoet312@aol.com

The Pleasure Promised by that Recruitment Must Be Very Great Indeed

The poet Auden once remarked he knew he was going
to die when he looked into the street and saw everyone
younger than he was. Nowadays, just go into the Gap.

Of course, what Auden meant was how dare the young
have a chance we didn't have! David, who sells me socks,
is so beautiful, I almost forget my size. Cash or credit?

American Express, I say, hoping he will get the hint
I have a rich interior life, but then realize he wouldn't be
working here if he wasn't already claimed by other eyes.

May I come in here naked, I think, I need your hands
to fit me out. Instead, I leave, while he turns to arrange
T shirts on the table, one on top of another, like lovers.

Across the street, at the Terra Museum, I look at
paintings by Buttersworth - tall ships of wood and rope
crash into a sea of green glass. Triangles of cotton

sails cut through the sky. On deck, the young men
are dots of blue, strokes of gray. Art or therapy?
Still, they glide away with bales of bright days.

TEN COURT PIECES

Ten Court Pieces

I

I am waiting in a large room with many people. Numbers are called. Men and women stand up and walk out. My number has not been called yet. I lean back and shut my eyes. I remember years ago. I sit on an airplane with my eyes closed. We are flying across the ocean. I am trying to listen to my breath instead of the sound of the jet engines. Inhale, exhale, I say to myself. Jerry sits next to me. I can feel the presence of his body even with my eyes shut. I am in love with Jerry. I am in love with the sight and taste of his body. My heart is troubled by this. I am afraid to fly and I am afraid of this love. Between breaths I pray that we make it over the ocean. I pray that the sound of the engines does not stop. I am afraid there is something empty in me that even Jerry cannot fill. I am flying over the ocean and I am thirsty.

II

I am waiting to be called to sit on a jury. In the Criminal Courts building it seems everyone is a hair's breadth away from being a criminal themselves. Here all sorts of handwritten signs abound. I can't see why they need so many, unless people are constantly not reading and paying attention. One door has three different signs in three different handwritings all saying: This is not an exit-Fire exit only. I have been reading a translation of Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah while I sit and wait. I am wondering how we know the sign that God keeps his promise. There is an ocean of broken promises in this world. It is early April with a cold wind off the lake. The promise of a savior seems as badly need here as spring in the city. The long rows of seats in the waiting room make me feel as if I am in an airplane going across the ocean. They say the depths and riches of the Law are like an ocean. When the promise is fulfilled, do we fly over it with our lover by our side unafraid? I am wondering now if an entire people can be stubborn in their love the way I was in mine. If you are always wandering, you are always going home.

III

What do I know of red heifers and their slaughter? What do I know of planting and what corners of the field to keep open? My burnt offering is a summer barbecue. My garden is a few basil plants on the windowsill. Outside, on the court bulletin board the names of the criminal cases are listed from A to Z. The first one is Jack Aberdeen. He is charged with armed robbery. The last one is Mikael Zedelca. He is accused of battery and sexual assault. They are waiting somewhere for their names to be called. Someone is also supposed to read our names from the book of Life. Alef is the name of the first letter. Adam is the first man. He stands accused of all of this. There are so many letters and so many names. There are so many accusations. There are so many men and so many ways to live. I think it was because of words that I found my way out from the heart's darkness, found my way across the ocean. I think it was because of letters I found a way to live. I cannot say all the languages. I only know one. I use it in this world. I use it to call my lover's name. I use it to pray there but for the grace of God go I.

IV

Why do I get the idea that Maimonides was a quarrelsome man? There is a nitpicking many learned men show. I suppose it is their way of fending off sexual attraction. There are so many laws, yet there is only one law. After eating do you wash your hands, then sweep the floor, or do you sweep the floor and then wash your hands? The young man before me is accused of armed robbery and the murder of Haley Smith. The State must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. There are the laws of God and the laws of man. We quarrel about the world and how to live in it. We love the world and those that show themselves naked to us. The Lord says in a dream: My light will shine upon you even though your heart is troubled. I get it now: after eating, wash your hands, then sweep the floor, then wash your hands again. Look, I am drunk, drunk on this foolishness. As Rumi says, Whoever brought me here will have to take me home. Oh, Lord, I wish I could be as fearless as the saints. Knock, knock. Come in, come up, the battle is over buttercups. So it is written that were it not for fools, the world would be desolate.

V

Men believed once that everything in the created world had a purpose. Those plants that were poisonous when ingested effected a cure when rubbed on the skin. Given enough time and intelligence we could divine the purpose in all things. What is the purpose of words and the writing of words? What is the purpose of poems? I do not write my poems for an audience of rocks. Men vary in their gifts of truth, beauty, and goodness. Men vary in what they love. I have cleaned the house. One man says this about the law, another says that. Abraham was counted just by faith. See, every bit of leaven is gone. But these words, they keep swelling in my brain. Bread and rocks and words: rocks break bread, but words break rocks. I am afraid that by loving him I will fall down a dark hole where at the bottom there is something bright. I do not write my poems for rocks.

VI

Here is the problem. Even after all the lawyers have said their say, even when the facts are before the judge and the law is understood, who can decide about a man? Is he the Messiah? When God makes a promise, how do we know he will fulfill it? In Spain, during the Samana Sancta, men lacerate their arms and legs with broken glass in a holy procession of sinners. Blood and the shedding of blood, the slaughter of sheep and heifers, this is part of the sacrifice. Our prayers go to heaven with smoke. This sacrifice takes the place of what we once were, of what was once perfect. This is the law. This is the covenant God makes with man. To what court do we take God if he reneges? So, Ecce Homo, behold the man. Flip a coin. If a carpenter comes in the name of the Lord to save the world, what are we to say? One Messiah is as good as another.

VII

Shams of Tabriz is with Rumi and Rumi is with Shams of Tabriz. It is evening. The sweet scent of basil lingers in the patio. The fountain giggles. A voice is heard and Shams is called to the door. The judge decides an axe should fall. Shams never comes back. Rumi is left waiting and waiting. Someone called my father away. My mother, too. Someone called Haley and Jerry away. Someone calls them all away.

VIII

There is no court on Good Friday. The Romans have taken things into their own hands. Justice is mocked even though God has ordained a purpose for all created things below the level of the moon. They took him down from the Cross and laid his body in a tomb. Haley Smith was buried on a rainy day in November. Everyone thinks they know how to live. Here is your plate, take what you want. But there are only beans here! But there are only apples here! Take what you want. I want my lover gone away. There are only beans here. We do our work and the days pass. There is nothing more to do. We'll go into the house now and have some tea or coffee and talk a bit. IX

Can you tell if a man has drunk from the deep well of loneliness just because he wears a beard and a black robe and sits as a judge on his high bench? All winter I nursed the basil plants by my window. They gave sparse leaves which I only used in special dishes. Some were for guests, others were for me and those times when my special guest would not come. I judged when to harvest the dwarfed leaves and I savored their aroma. There is so much to tell and often no one to listen. I watch the judge turn the pages of a notebook as he reads instructions to the prospective jurors. There is so much to tell about the law and about this case and that. There are so many facts and so many excuses. I loved him because he was beautiful and our souls are made for beauty. I loved him in spite of the law. He tasted like basil. I have said this before. It was as good an argument as any. So far I have gotten off. This is my body. This is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.

X

Billy Coleman robbed at gunpoint Haley Smith. He took Haley's beeper, some gold jewelry, and eighty-five dollars. Then Billy shot Haley. He shot him three times, because he wanted to make sure he was dead. There was a voice calling, but it could not be heard above the ring of gunshots. We know this because his accomplice testified to it, and so did Haley's girlfriend who saw it all from her car. Haley Smith was twenty years old. The gun used was a nine millimeter automatic. The car was an old Ford Maverick. If there is enough time we can give names to everything in the world. If there is enough time we can learn the purpose of everything in creation. Just now sunshine spills from the street into the courtroom. A row of potted plants on the broad windowsill above the lawyers' heads catches the light and glows with translucent green. This light is all the plants need to prosper in their place, this and a little water. On the other side of the room the windows open to a view of Cook County Jail. Above the fence that surrounds the jail, spirals of concertina wire glisten in the sunlight. Little razors on the wire wait to discourage any escape and sparkle the way water in a deep well sparkles when sunlight breaks the hollow darkness. It is a long time behind bars. It is a long time underground. If you see me drunk tonight, watching the boys dance, don't ask why.




David Hunter Sutherland

3468441@mcimail.com

SNOW PIPE

Caveat the bleeding
with softwood, bloodroot,
hyssop's soft poultice
and brie sharp meal.

To eat...to eat !
The tough-boned ancestors,
ramidus -- erectus,
swill of hominid on tap of dull pap,

and relish the forbearers
of field scented bowel,
warring eyes behind masked
emollient clay.

To eat...to eat !
our bone ripened history,
of violent misdeed,
of full bloodied contest
on fossil entrails.

Then redress the resemblance
in stone chisel resolve,
lolling tongues to the nectar
of a miscreant's glee broad-
deviled embrace.

To eat...to eat !
The hard-crusted lessons
foraged sweets to a harvest,
scattered whey to a scythe,
of a slow crop to surmise.


Karen King

wcmi@teleport.com

GONE TO GLORY

Every Sunday of my adolescent years, I was forced out of my bed and cajoled down to the breakfast table to consume mass quantities of flapjacks, eggs, and sausages as fortitude for our day long sojourn to the grace and glory of God, housed for the moment at the First Baptist Church of Glory, Texas.

Grandmother raised me due to the fact my mother was divorced from my natural father. But, it was mostly because Momma preferred to live in the hustle and bustle of Dallas rather than putrefy in Glory.

Grandmother never missed services. She always told me if I didn't appreciate her efforts here on Earth, I would when gone and buried. From that event, I would be received in the bosom of the Lord for her undertakings now.

So I, dressed in my starchy best, and Grandmother, bedecked in her everlasting topper of birds and flowers, would climb into that old, large, comfort-able, metal Chevy and take off for Brother Bircham's preaching.

Grandmother never drove faster than fifteen miles an hour in her life, except for the time I fell out of the Chinaberry tree and required three stitches in my head. We would poke along Farm Road 31, slow as tractors, and she would talk about the weather. The conversation varied in four ways depending on the season. Spring was magnificent; summer was carefree; fall was described as crisp and changing, and winter was solemn. It was a crisp and changing morning the day we had the flat tire.

At first, Grandmother thought someone was shooting in one of the nearby fields and paid the noise no mind, but when the ride became bumpy, she pulled over. She was quite vexed, not because of the tire, but because we'd be late for services.

Grandmother held the exalted position of first high soprano in the choir and had always had the solo during the singing, when her voice, raised in praise and faith, would warble over the parishioners, jolting some out of a sound sleep. It never failed. I suspected that was the reason she was given the solo -- to wake the sleeping sinners.

She put the vehicle in park and, instructing me to stay put, got out, and inspected the damage. I heard her snort, a sure sign of displeasure. A snort meant she was frustrated over circumstances. It also meant she'd do anything in her power to overcome the obstacles in her way.

We lived a ways out of town, and Farm Road 31 wasn't vastly traveled, especially on Sunday morning. By the set of her face, I knew she was contem-plating a plan, and I was perfectly content to sit on that big seat until she made it known.

"Get the pad and pencil out of the glove box. I want to leave a note." She said to me.

I meekly obeyed. She took the materials from my hand, penned her thoughts, and stuck the note under the wiper. I peeked at it. "Gone to Glory", it said.

"Well, don't stand there like an idiot, child. Get out. We got some walking to do."

It was here that I offered my first complaint of the day.

"It's almost three miles to town. We'll never get there in time. Why don't we walk back to the farm so we can call a mechanic? It's closer."

"No, Ma'am. The Lord expects us at His house, and I'm not going to disappoint Him. Get a move on now!"

I knew there was no use in arguing with her. I'd never won with her before. All battles for naught, I quickly sunk under her sharp retorts. Sighing, I heaved out of the car and looked fondly back in.

"No, lallygagging now, I said move. It's still a half hour before Sunday School. We should get there in plenty of time for my solo."

So, we started off for Glory, walking on asphalt baked by the summer and frozen by the winter so many times it was like a rippled ribbon through the fields.

Grandmother kept up a steady stream of comments on our predicament. First, she said it was the Devil's business that put us on foot. He wanted us to miss the word of God. Next, it was those fool college boys for inventing cars in the first place. In her day, they'd have just hitched up the horses and rode right into Glory. Finally, it was the Lord's doing to test her. Like Job she could handle any burden He laid on her shoulders. Didn't she have a daughter who, neglecting her duties, left her only child to be raised away from her so she could cavort in sin? Yes sir, she could handle a flat tire.

I kept turning my head around to see how far away we were from the car. I was using it as my focal point. As soon as it disappeared into a speck, I asked Grandmother how far she thought we'd come.

"We've come a long way from being heathens, and a far piece to go to being good Christians," was her reply. I spoke again, explaining I meant how far have we been walking. She scolded me saying she knew what I meant, did I know what she meant? It was a question which required no answer. Grown-ups often ask children questions which have no answers. It's a way of one-upman-ship, of convincing oneself you're smarter and wiser than a child, completely deserving of the noun grownup.

Bits of cottonballs lay by the roadside like manna from Heaven. The recent harvest had left the fields empty, all except for a pumpkin patch where rickety, slat-sided wagons stood bulging with orangeness.

"The air is crisp and the land is changing child. Yes, sir it's autumn. We can thank the Lord He waited until fall to flatten that tire. He could've picked spring, but let's thank Him it's not winter or summer. We'd be freezing and roasting if it were."

The car was gone from sight and, once again, I ventured a question concerning how far away we were from Glory.

"A long way, " Grandmother answered, "a long way indeed."

I wasn't sure if she meant the town or our heavenly reward and I didn't request clarification.

My feet, not accustomed to such strain in black patent leather kids, were beginning to ache, and, despite the fact it was crisp, I was changing into warm.

Grandmother yelped at me for squirming so and let out a heavy sigh.

"Just like Harry, " she said, "Just like Harry."

Harry was my deceased grandfather. I'd never had the pleasure as he was gone long before I was born, died when my mother was a teenager. Grandmother often spoke of Mother's and my ill-mannered traits as being directly inherited from Harry. Harry had been a Mobbs and 'God knows the Mobbs were never a steady lot.' Why Harry's own sister, my great aunt, had run off to New York (city of the Devil), and become a shameless show girl. Whenever I was particularly upsetting to her, she would show me a picture of my great aunt and tell me I didn't want to end up like her. The thing was -- the picture in my eyes - was glamorous. This great aunt was done up in a twenties dress with a feather boa and a diamond tiara, smoking on a long cigarette holder and cuddling a Pekingese puppy in her lap. "Look at her," Grandmother would say, "and you're looking at sin itself." Sin, I thought, mightn't be too bad. But Grandmother had other pictures.

Religious tracts, made to look like comic books, adorned her table. People roasting in Hell, being pricked with pitchforks, and the Devil dancing in the flames, laughing all the while. The poor souls got there several ways. One was drinking, another kissing, and, of course, being a show girl. Grandmother never stopped delighting in pointing out how similar the show girl in Hell looked to my great aunt. I had to agree.

Fire and brimstone were the main components of Brother Bircham's sermons, and Grandmother always nodded her head vigorously when he talked about the unbelievers and wayward souls who would burn forever.

"Amen!" she would ring out in that high soprano voice. "Amen!" She really got worked up during the revivals. If you've never been, more sin and crime is talked about during a Baptist tent revival than can be seen nowadays on TV.

The visiting speaker, always a born-again, would take the stand and tell us story after story about when he was a sinner. Sometimes they robbed a bank or were drunkards or women chasers. They were always disrespectful of their parents, but most of all to God and Jesus Christ Almighty. I would sit on the edge of my seat, entranced by these tales of wantonness. The ending was always the same. On their last legs, down in a gutter, a Baptist preacher would start talking with them about how much Jesus loved them. It didn't matter that they'd heard it before; when these Baptists preachers started talking, a door opened and Christ came into their hearts. Now they were sworn and determined to witness, to spread the word of God, and raise funds to continue their good work everywhere. After this part, I knew the tales about their sinning were over.

Once I asked Grandmother about why all these preachers used to be sinners, and she told me never pay it no mind now. They're saved in the name of Jesus and it didn't matter none what they did before. That was the great thing about being a Baptist. You could be saved. While on the other hand, Methodists and Catholics couldn't. I always thought it

sad that the nicely dressed people who entered the Heavenly Breath's Methodist Church weren't going to Heaven. If only they'd had enough sense to walk across the street and be saved.

Grandmother looked at her watch and grunted. A grunt meant she wasn't progressing as she liked. It also meant she would make a superhuman effort to progress. We stepped up our pace considerably.

"Like soldiers, " she said, "we've got to be like soldiers and endure."

Then, in that pitch which could raise the dead, she sang out loud and clear.

"Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war...."

I joined in, lacking other entertainment, and we forged on, singing to Glory.

My next complaint came halfway to town. I was thirsty.

"So was the Lord at Calvary, " Grandmother answered, "and when He said so, a blackguard Roman gave Him vinegar instead. That's how cruel people were to the Lord."

Grandmother even ventured a Jew probably told the Roman to do it. Jews were a favorite target of her ire. They'd killed the Christ, and it was all their fault He suffered the way He did, but it was God's plan. I never could figure out how it was all their fault and God's plan at the same time. I once pointed out that if it was God's plan, it couldn't have been the Jews' fault. I was treated to a hairbrush spanking for my insolence and made to go to bed early for questioning the wisdom of my elders. As far as I know, Grandmother had never met a Jew in her life, but she sure knew enough about them to hear her talk. When I finally grew up and out of Glory, I met many nice Jewish people and determined them to be as gracious as Methodists and Catholics. Grandmother saw them as going into the wrong door, and she couldn't look the other way on this one.

We could hear the church bells ringing at 11:30. Grandmother bent her head down and pulled me, hauling us towards the hoopla. I could even make out the crossing, though it was still a half mile away.

We passed the other Baptist church in town about fifteen minutes later. This church possessed no bell nor was it painted, but you could hear the singing for miles around. It was the black church called Freedom's Post. I heard the music and joy exuding from it as we passed. I was

quite confused and asked Grandmother why their choir sounded more up than ours.

" 'Cause that's the way the colored are," she explained and gave me a stern look, "It's a sign of ignorance and lowliness that they're not more solemn."

"They sound happy."

"Good Lord, child! Where did you ever get the idea that being proper in religion meant happiness? It means joy, yes, but it's not quite right to be that...happy." She was searching and I could see she was a might confused on the issue herself.

About that time a pickup truck driven by Mr. Jones, the local black handyman, pulled up.

"Miss Mobbs," Jones called out, "you in any trouble?"

"Our car had a flat, but we're almost to town."

"Can I give you a lift, Ma'am?" It was Jones' misfortune to be so polite, such a good Samaritan. Grandmother drew up stiffly and glared at him.

"No thank you! It wouldn't be fitting."

Jones looked at Grandmother, just as hard, and gave me a pitiful glance. He drove away in silence, and here is where I made my final misjudgement of the day.

"Why couldn't we take a ride?" I asked. "I'm tired."

"Christ was tired, tired from His weary burdens."

"Please call him back." I was given a good shaking at this point.

"Are you crazy? Are you out of your head? For land's sake, what kind of woman do you think I am? This is more of Harry's blood speaking. A white woman and child riding in a colored pickup. Girl, you shame me. I thought I brought you up better."

We walked on. Grandmother was beginning to worry that her solo might be given to Elmira Bodkin. Elmira Bodkin and Grandmother were rivals in the choir -- Elmira's voice not being as fine as Grandmother's though. They also competed as widows with burdens, giving their sacrifices to

the tithe. Every time Elmira gave more than Grandmother one week; Grandmother would double her tithe the next. This information was not privy in our church. Brother Bircham always told the entire congreation who gave the most that week and who gave the least. The one who had not

given fully was often the recipient of cold stares from others in the congregation and it was a certainty of life that next week their name would not be called again.

"I'll be darned if Elmira Bodkin is going to get the best of me this Sunday in both ways," Grandmother said, meaning the solo and the tithe. "I've never missed a service yet, and I'll be darned if I'm going to miss this one."

I almost swallowed my tongue to hear the "darneds". It was the closest to swearing I ever heard from Grandmother.

We made the crossroads and were now less than an eighth of a mile from church. We hurried past the trim town yards and the small Catholic church. Grandmother started running as we cut across the Methodist's lawn. I was sure I saw heads turning inside as we capered by Grandmother, breath-ing like a tired dog, and me, panting like a puppy, into Glory.

We made the church steps just as the music began for the solo. Grandmother vaulted through the doors and stopped at the back, belting out in her high voice, "On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the symbol of suffering and sorrow."

We'd made it. We had walked the countryside, traversed the wilderness to Glory. I collapsed on the back pew as the parishioners turned and smiled at Grandmother. Brother Bircham beamed. The canary had made it home. The nightingale was trumpeting her praises to God.

Amen and Hallelujah.


Contributors

William C. Burns

Robert Klein Engler lives in Chicago. He reads his work in coffeehouses, bars and cafes around the city. His poems and stories appear in Borderlands, Evergreen Chronicles, Hyphen, Christopher Street, The James Wright Review, American Letters and Commentary, Literal Latte, and many other magazines and journals. He is the author of two books of poetry, Shoreline and Stations of the Heart (Alphabeta Press). In 1989 he was the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award for his poem, "Flower Festival at Genzano," which appeared in Whetstone.

Ray Heinrich published his first chapbook by secretly placing copies in local bookstores and libraries. His poems have appeared in Electronic Soapbox, CrossConnect, 33 Review, So It Goes..., Agnieszka's Dowry, Katanaville, Enterzone, Sparks, Morpo Review, Sand River Journal, BiSexual Journal, The Wicked, Surreal Voices, billetdoux, Droplet Journal, No Trace, Sub-UrbanTerrain, Biopsy, his own "Word Biscuit E-letter" and elsewhere. An electronic edition of his chapbook: "years of water" (Word Biscuit Press) is available free via email. Send requests to: ray@vais.net

Karen King

Karen King was born in Texas and lived in Los Angeles for many years where she worked in the entertainment industry. Her credits include "thirtysomething," Glory, In the Name of the Father, and Dream Street. Ms. King earned an Emmy certificate for her contribution to "thirtysomething" and a CINE Eagle for In the Name of the Father. She now resides in Vancouver, Washington with her husband and spends her time writing, gardening, crabbing, watching the Dallas Cowboys, and enjoying the great Northwest. email: wcmi@teleport.com

janet kuypers

Ernest Slyman

ERSlyman@MSN.com

David Hunter Sutherland is an editor for a internet publication called Recursive Angel and has had the pleasure of seeing a number of his works in magazines, journals and reviews over the years. He is also a longstanding member of The Academy Of American Poets and has a collection of works scheduled for publication June 1996. E-Mail: 3468441@mcimail.com RA: "http://www.calldei.com/~recangel"