Brother Marvin’s Burden Calls Me Back

Janet Reed


My father said God identified as He.
No question.  Capital H

harsh, angry, always jealous,
waiting for penitence.  

In church, I tried to think
about the burning bush

a hungry whale, sinner Jonah
swimming three days

in its belly, but I rushed instead
through mighty winds

a girl eager to hold a rod
and smite a rock,

sleepwalked through Sunday
school to discover in the end

the Four Horsemen did not know
my name.  I walked away from

the New Jerusalem of St. Paul
on a Damascus road

blinding in its selfhood absent
my Father’s God until

traveling preacher Brother Marvin
called me to revival,

seven nights of old-fashioned
Bible preaching, hymn singing,

his heart burdened by soul
saving.  For a moment,

an old grief for babies in mangers
and bulrushes washed over me,

the taste of milk and honey
in my teeth, teasing

like Tantalus, denied like Moses,
the Black book promises

and revival prayers I knew too well
did not include me.  


Janet Reed is guest editor of I-70 Review, author of Blue Exhaust (FLP, 2019), and a multi-year Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sow’s Ear Review, Ellipsis, Tipton Poetry Journal, and others. She began writing knock-off Nancy Drew stories on wide-lined notebook paper at age 11 and now teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri.

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