William Wright


You will know when the Holy Ghost descends,
o yes, will take up this timber rattler, praise God,
or this copperhead, and smell Him hovering, a sweet savor,
a scent between bread and pear syrup—
and your chest will heave so heavy with the Spirit
that you will tread on this serpent as easy as a stream.
It’s hard not to swoon
with love.

If you shake
and He awakens in you, be anointed
and surrender
to that strong, even light. Catch a few breaths
after Brother Ben opens the vipers, just step outside and sit
near that old crooked tree: you’re going to have to

learn, praise Jesus, that the earth touches
through the Lord,
and if this snake bites into your palm, if its fangs snag sin
onto the arms, mercy, mercy, the best thing you can do
is gnash your teeth at the pain, relish how the poison proves
your fields and forces, because, God love us, healing
also takes the hand

of this world, and we shall lie
fully in its bosom: we must ghost our rage
down deep to the roots
that bring blooms up through our darkness. 
Venom and fear stitch a bridge
of faith under our soles, and we must stamp
out our secret fires.

Faith is the only water we have now: a creek, a river,
and soon a sea to drown the beasts
that we now take up.

* * *

William Wright has published poetry and scholarship in Avocet Quarterly, Poet Lore, Texas Review, Yemassee, Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and the Arts and Academic Exchange Quarterly. Wright serves as co-editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology (South Carolina) with Stephen Gardner of the University of South Carolina Aiken.