What the evangelist should have said

An American evangelist, preaching salvation,
said it was like being on one side of a river, Jesus
on the other, arms long as forever reaching
to lift you over. But we only knew hope river,
sally waters river – only knew rambling brooks
running through the cane as river, a thing
you could jump over, or make a way across
on stones. We had no imagination of Mississippi
or Delaware, rivers so wide they held ships.
A saviour with magic arms was pointless.

What the evangelist should have said, was:
is like when de river come down just like suh
and you find yuself at de bottom,
slow breathin unda de surface, speakin
in bubbles, growin accustomed to fish
and deep and dark and forever – salvation
is de man with arms like a tractor
who reach in fi pull you out of de river,
press de flat of him hands gainst your belly
and push de river out of you.

'What the evangelist should have said' from There is an Anger That Moves (Carcanet Press, 2007), Kei Miller 2007, used by permission of the author.

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