Jesus Walking on the Water

The final night of the revival a great success!
Ten souls saved for the Lord! Twenty dollars
in the collection plate!
                                         And yet this was not
the miracle she had promised, when she wrote,
telling about her missionary days in China,
promising she still had the true gospel fervor,
claiming her preaching would pack the tent;
nor was it the cardboard suitcase she opened,
while the deacons were stacking the chairs
and rolling the tent flaps down for rain,
and putting out the lanterns –
                                                      the suitcase
out of which she took a jade-green scarf
for Rosalie, and wound it around her neck,
calling her “Sister”; nor the lacquered box
she brought out to show to Emily and Tom,
containing a small glass dome, within which
a miniature orchestra waited for the tap
of the conductor’s baton, and each musician
was a dried brown beetle holding a flute
or a violin made of mother-of-pearl.
nor her praise for the virtues of living
out here in the country, as they counted
the money, and he gave her exactly half –
as promised in his letter –
                                               nor the sound
of wind riffling through the tent, after
all the others were gone, after Rosalie
had taken the children on up the path,
and the last deacon had said good night,
and there was only one coal-oil lantern
hanging from the center pole, and somehow
the wind made it flicker just as he turned
to look at her, and heard the first drops
of rain pelting across the tent –
                                                         and saw
that her face was neither old nor young,
and continued to see that look in her eyes
even in the darkness that came over them
when he knew exactly what was happening,
at last, on the last night of the revival,
there on the platform, beneath the banner,
next to the lectern –
                                   he knew that rain
had finally loosened its fresh, cool smell,
that thunder and lightning had come down
from the far ridge, that he was hearing words
and phrases he could not believe, fragments
of Mandarin and Portuguese, that her voice
caressed certain parts of him even before
her hands and lips began to explore them,
to call from places deep within his body
hot filaments of desire, each strand forced
and drawn out through jeweled apertures –

all this she did patiently, explaining each
touch as she performed it, while in flashes
of lightning that filled the tent he made out
her face, the outline of her hair, her body –
her voice stronger now above the drumming
of the rain as she moved him onto his back
and began to tell him of ways, of secrets
known to courtesans of the ancient palace,
exotic positions never before experienced
by modern man, that gave ungodly pleasure –

and began to demonstrate, slowly, firmly,
this time without telling him the name
of the technique, that strenuous position
called “Wailing Monkey Clasping a Tree,”
until he began to beg, to call out to her,
until he began not to care any longer,
until he began to approach the unbearable,
until the last vestige of doubt had left him,
until it seemed as though mists were rising,
until he began to open, to break into petals
of the flower she kept pressing against him –

until he could grasp without understanding
how she had kept to her promise – soaring
high above him, leaning down at exactly
the right moment and sticking her tongue
in his ear, whispering, laughing softly,
reminding him of the text of the sermon
he had preached earlier that evening –
not simply announcing that miracle now,
but becoming it, showing it to be true.

© 2005 Jared Carter