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.