Someone pulls a burning splinter from the devil’s thigh
————————————————& holds it up to the sun—
August in Texas.
And slides it down the frets to get the dying cicadas going, half wheeze
& half-halted gospel hum,
if it’s Blind Willie a hundred years ago, Blind Pilgrim
born a stone’s throw from here,
if it’s a knife blade sliding down the strings,
Jesus gon make up my dying bed.
In ’45 it was a bed in his burned-out house,
————————————–nowhere else to go,
wet bed to keep cool in the Texas summer,
that became his dying bed, when the hospital turned away
a man with malarial fever,
because he was blind, or black, or both.
Preached & sang in the streets
to people he couldn’t see,
if my wings should fail me, Lord,
—————————like the cloud of witnesses
the author of Hebrews says we’re surrounded by,
whoever that was,
we might never know.
Here, to this cloud of the wanted & missing who look down
at us from billboards, hushed against
the shimmy-shake of locusts buzzing into the call of the coal train
heading north, armature of the next life,
———————————–armature or echo
of the day after our last,
to this cloud add the passengers & crew making an emergency landing
meet me in the middle with another pair.
I was on that flight last week,
can hear the flight attendant saying wear your seatbelt low
like J-Lo wears pants,
over the million white RV hookups at the Texas Motor Speedway
I once thought were headstones,
over the thirty-foot monoliths on an unfinished I-35 ramp,
henges of a disappeared people,
highway henges of a road into the sky.
I count up all the times my life’s been out of my hands
& arrive at grace,
at a number I cannot know,
number of wings that will fail in this world—
how long till I’ll need you to meet me in the middle
of the air? How long
——————will faith mean a belief
in what I cannot see?
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.