A Rural Baptism
Stumbling in from town, here by accident,
I pause by fields where roads slant to water
beside a dying oak that's sparse on shade.
High noon this summer never burned so hot.
My clarity is clouding grey from wine
or last night's women lit wild by neon.
Today, the Tallapoosa River gleams
at storm tides rich with bass and penitents
pulling brown water slick across their backs.
Descending the shallow banks, wet preachers
in tousled ties and suits dunk the faithful
like children testing worn bike tires for leaks.
They spur with testimonial fevers:
'don't make God a liar saying you've no sins.'
Their policy's grand: no ghost left behind.
I saw half those ghosts last night in Beth's Bar,
breaking seals on bottles that burn the throats –
those crypts of whiskey breath and cigar smoke.
There, pick-up lines were layers of fool's gold,
promises in shouts or whispers, thrown raw
to any woman not feared half insane.
In these bent corners of the Promised Land
shadows still knotted-up with last night's doubts
are hunger's hesitation to repent.
But why blame men in bad binds in hard times?
Their futures will deal them fresh transgressions,
any river with not enough answers.
Jeffrey Alfier received an honorable mention for the Rachel Sherwood Poetry Prize. His recent credits include The Cape Rock, Crab Orchard Review, Georgetown Review, and Xavier Review. He is author of a chapbook, Strangers within the Gate (The Moon Publishing, 2005).