Speaking in Tongues in the United States

It is coming Pentecost and I hear
all the beautiful ruined voices I’ve loved –
an old preacher
cracking the gospel open
in some dusty July tent, and
a blues singer in a cheap bar
belting her untrained
red throat of heart,
a Manhattan steel girder Mohawk
in November wind,
a Kansas gandy dancer,
and a Minnesota carnival barker,
selling the sideshow.

Pipe-smoking, porch-sitting
down south voices
rock the hot night with fire flies,
and cigar-smoking poker game
Chicago back room voices,
draw a flush in the dawn.
A fisherman from Gloucester,
lips split with salt,
whispers to the ghost of a fisherman
washed ashore …
from Charleston or Nantucket.

A power company lineman from
Aroostook County,
drags frost down his lungs,
and a firefighter (from anywhere)
sucks house-burn,
while a second rate actor …
or a first class one …
or maybe that same preacher again
tries to set some sad-assed
audience on fire.

The man who needs spare change,
hums and whistles
from his tracheotomy hole
like whale song,
a garage band takes a break
for an energy drink buzz to the blood,
and a blue haired organist,
one hand on the keyboard,
one cueing sopranos as old as she,
sings the tenor line alone.

Almost anyone who has spent
a few too many storms
in a lighthouse or a shelter,
a church
or a hard-luck home —
has a Pentecost voice,
beautiful, gravelly
crone-remembering-cherub voice,
not much listened too
by folks with all the power

more texture than timbre –
cursing and crying,
gambling on lies and prayers,
and talking in the dark.

Pentecost isn’t so much about
speaking foreign words
as trusting a voice,
you don’t understand,
maybe even your own voice,
and listening
to the crazy vocal
orchestration and defoliation
of the Holy Spirit.

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8 Responses to Speaking in Tongues in the United States

  1. dabar96 says:

    Yes! “…trusting a voice you don’t understand…” that calls you, not to sweeping, grand gestures on a spotlighted stage, but to quietly give yourself backstage or in the alley-way like a broken candy bar is shared among hungry souls.

  2. Bravo! I’m applauding, and you should take a bow for this one, a poem full of imagery that pours unexpected fire and feathers over my amazement.

  3. Erice Fairbrother says:

    Dear Maren – I think this blog is working really well. It would be great if it could continue. Currently I am putting newly ordained clergy in touch with it.

    Congratulations on it going so well.

    Blessings

    Erice

    *From:* Gifts in Open Hands [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] *Sent:* Saturday, 31 May 2014 7:55 p.m. *To:* ecfairbrother@xtra.co.nz *Subject:* [New post] Speaking in Tongues in the United States

    Maren posted: “It is coming Pentecost and I hear all the beautiful ruined voices I’ve loved – an old preacher cracking the gospel open in some dusty July tent, and a blues singer in a cheap bar belting her untrained red throat of heart, a Manhattan steel girder “

    • Maren says:

      Thank you, Erice. And I do hope you will encourage some of them to contribute through the gifts gmail account and send in more of your wonderful pieces!

  4. rezrevres says:

    Oh yes and Amen!!! This is the real thing!!! Well done sister.

  5. Maren says:

    Thank you — for the “amen” and the “sister.”

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