Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Sirens in Full Vibrato

William Fraker

My father possessed a fondness for late summer revivals
At rural churches where small choirs sang familiar
Hymns to the flitter of hand-held fans. The local
Funeral home or feed store sponsored these paddles
Of cardboard stapled to balsa wood, printed
With pietistic iconography — a long-haired Jesus
Knocking on a cottage door or standing on a slope
With a flock of sheep; one atop his shoulders.

As the sermon progressed, the preacher shed
His coat and allowed the sleeves of his white shirt
To creep up his forearm. He discarded his tie.
The staccato of homiletic punctuation hung
In mugginess before slicing through the thickness
To reach the ears of those on the back pew.
Linen handkerchiefs mopped many a brow.
The collected body heat and sweat
Of the congregation created a sauna
Of potential redemption. The longer the sermon,
The more perspiration flowed like water
From Moses’ desert rock, drenching all
In a carnal baptism filled with a longing for relief.

The denouement began when the minister cued
The middle-aged sopranos of the choir to sing
As sirens in full vibrato for the altar call.
The procession of a handful came forward.

The crowd exited slowly; drained, as if in a stupor.
Outside the vestibule, the salty skins of the drenched
And departing awoke in the shock of the night air;
A sudden chill of the future, instead of fire,
Preceded the path toward tomorrow.


William W. (Bill) Fraker's poetry has appeared in The Witness magazine. He graduated from Lynchburg College with a degree in English and obtained graduate degrees from Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has taught at Duke University and Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a psychotherapist and manager for a company improving the quality of health care in the public sector. He lives with his wife near Richmond, Virginia.

© William Fraker

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012