In that small town

by Jeanette Reid

Revivals were the summer’s big event. The vacant
lot on Maple Street was covered with a tent, filled
up with wooden folding chairs and Methodists
waving Jesus through the air on every hand-held fan.

This night we intermediates sat in the special
left-front section, and the preacher’s fiery sermon
seemed to aim our way. “Who will go?” he shouted
leaping from the make-shift podium, “Who will pledge
his life to Jesus, be washed in his blood?”
He took off down the grassy aisle, his raised arm
jabbing out each beat, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”

Folks left their seats to join him, calling out Jerusalem!
I left my little shadow-self in the fold-up chair.
We rounded the back row, turned up towards the center.

But I never got there. Almost to the altar,
an arm reached out and grabbed me.
It belonged to my mother. “What are you
doing?” she hissed. “Sit down here and be quiet!”
She held my wrist so tightly, my hand
began to tingle. Her stony face looked
forward, feinting full composure.

Jeanette Reid grew up in a small west Tennessee town among acres of cotton fields. After raising a family and teaching English in Maryland, she moved to Asheville, North Carolina and fell in love with the mountains, a stark contrast to the landscape of her childhood. Her poetry enables her to examine and give voice to that contrast in ways that feel honest, enriching, and exciting.

About In that small town—This poem grew out of a class assignment after reading Emily Dickinson's "Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?” The question: What ideas, recollections, speculations are elicited for you by this "white heat"?