The Calling

for my parents

Why should she want to meet the young preacher waiting in the sitting room?

Paused on the landing, she fears his voice drifting up the stairwell deep and sweet as curing tobacco—pure

Arkansas sharecropper’s son,

reminder of a past her family barely survived. She trembles

like a stranger.

She thinks: You won’t change me, Snake-charmer. She pictures him

knees prayed to a shine. She imagines

his brown hand resting on a gator-skin Bible rubbed smooth

to her mother’s best china cup.

Against her better judgment she recalls that his hair is black and full

as the Mississippi.

She wonders if her hazel eyes would take on that depth

His words vibrate deep,

accompany her steps like organ music

She reaffirms her resolve:

I will not marry a soldier, a farmer, a preacher. I will not be widowed

She pauses on the last step.

Smoothes the taffeta skirt of her best dress. Her crinolines whisper.

Her small, naked hand pales against a sea of deep green

the color he will mistake her eyes for until the day he dies.