Holy Rollers, Snyder, Texas, 1951


Shades of brown: rust of the dirt road in
and the gullies deepening to umber,
the taupe of winter grass along the shoulder,
the walls of the One True Gospel Church, dun,
with a plywood cross nailed above the door.
Dream fades to memory: the gray-brown hair
of Mrs, Hill pasted to her neck, the cracked
porcelain of her hands, her voice—Rock
of ages, cleft for m
e—cutting through the air
like a crow's cry. Beside her, Lester Hill
sits pale and mute with me, the awkward guest.
The preacher from the used-car lot, dressed
in banker's clothes, shouts. It's a hard road
to heaven, Lord, but an easy ride to hell.

He wails, and the air thickens to a mud,
an agony, a swirl of groans and cries.
They find me later, curled into a ball,
humming "Rock of Ages" in a wheat field,
the brown earth of fear pressed against my eyes.