Stacey Lynn Brown

When I was four, we drove to Nashville

When I was four, we drove to Nashville,
Grand Ole Opry-bound, and stopped
the night at a broken down motel
in Tennessee—shag walls,
mossy carpet, dank concrete—
and I remember standing in
the doorway as evening fell,
a busful of believers rattling their way
to the pool for a makeshift
baptism, the Amens and Hear us, Lords
ricocheting through the courtyard
as underwater lights glowed
the pool algae green.

They would come to him, the big
preacher man, and he’d lay
a palm across their foreheads, brace
them at the small of their backs.
They’d release themselves to him:
teethsucking the air before
falling back into salvation,
held under unstruggling and
splashing up anew all gasping
grace and sanctified glory
hallelujah til my mother shut the door
and made me watch tv.

My parents don’t recall it,
but that’s the way
memory works in the South—
the truth is always lying
in some field somewhere between
the bones of the fallen
and the weapons they reach for.