Girl Jamie walked into the church straight and tall

like her brother when someone was inspecting one of his welds.


She pushed through the soft perfumed bodies and towers of done hair

to sit beside her mother in the heat and yellow light filtered through stained glass.


Jesus prayed on a hillside, shepherds prayed at the baby Jesus,

a confused apostle lifted his hands at an empty tomb,


and when the preacher hollered “tell God you want a miracle,

tell God you need a miracle, feel God delivering you that miracle,”


the woman on Girl Jamie’s other side grabbed her hand.

Girl Jamie felt the woman’s big rings pressed into her finger joints,


felt the plush pads of the woman’s palm and fingertips

so intimately on her own skin, and felt the shock of God


through her body. She looked around at the bowed heads

in every direction and their belief shattered her like lightning


in an old pine. Oh that feeling of holding back sobs

you are so embarrassed to sob.


The tears ran down her face, her arms, slicked the fingers of her praying neighbor,

the blue church carpet, and red upholstered pews.


The preacher said, “The saints have arrived. They come on this flood.”

And then he was swept down to the basement on her tide of tears.


The women setting out lunch for after the service gathered up fried chicken,

the casseroles, green beans, the macaroni, biscuits


and ran for the high ground of the cemetery.

When Girl Jamie stopped crying, only she and the woman next to her


remained in the sanctuary. They parted hands

and took different doors outside.


Girl Jamie’s mother waited for her beside the graveyard

and Girl Jamie had never felt so clean.
*These poems are part of a series that centers around “Bad Jamie” – a pill addict in southern Appalachia—his daughter Girl Jamie, and various other family members. As family folklore and environment intersect in these poems, dead grandmothers turn to woodpeckers, women inherit the ability to live as mountain lions, and Bad Jamie is a black hole the other characters try to resist falling into.

Jessica Fordham Kidd is a lifelong Alabamian. She is the associate director of First-Year Writing at the University of Alabama, and her poems have appeared in Drunken Boat, Goblin Fruit, and The Paris Review among others.