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LIGHT OF THE SACRED HARP / David Bottoms Small fire of hymnals in a trash can, the spirit of shape-notes rising in smoke as we huddle at the altar, watch our song-cloud hover under the ceiling, rise through a broken window into the cold dark. Here we share in the good new warmth of God's old house, the warmth of the bottle carried through woods and field. Here we drink the new wine, the plasma of visionaries and hunters, until the spirit of that blood moves in us, moves in the legs of the offering table, the swayed backs of pews, the splintered crosses bearing panes of wavy glass, dark faces frowning from the table of the Last Supper, staring through the ashes of our hymn-words floating up like dust on fire, floating up and vanishing like the yelps of our dogs vanishing in the trees beyond the field of stumps, the tombstones weedy with briars, the collapsed steps, the jimmied door. As though this were a light to see all things by, the fire draws us into its vision, a choir of voices rising behind the crackling music, a clapping of sweaty hands, swaying of bodies in a hot night, the slap of rhythm sticks, tambourines, bottle caps rattling in a hollow gourd. And we chunk in hymnals, funeral home fans of the Sermon on the Mount, Jeses in the wilderness, Jesus at the door, chunk in a bouquet of dead flowers to watch the fire jump around the pulpit like something catching spirit, hear old voices burning back from the graveyard in new-found harmony as the pulpit catches 46 · The Missouri Review and becomes light, and we kneel for drunkness and joy as fire climbs the wall and enters the Last Supper, the air filling up with psalm-smoke, the whole house of the Lord popping with revival, becoming pure spirit of voices returning in the joyful noise of the Sacred Harp, singing over and over the good gospel news that men do rise from dust and ashes. David Bottoms The Missouri Review · 47 DRUNKS IN THE BASS BOAT / David Bottoms One light across a mile of water, the porch-light of the bait shop through layers of pine. Along the far bank, the shadow of the treeline floating and sinking as moonlight sifts between cloud-gaps, casts a long yellow rope across the lake. Beyond the grass island cradling the boat, the pads weeding back into the cove, a jungle of lillies, white petalled heads curling on long necks toward the water—night herons. The outboard coughs and dies, the cord jumps back into the casing, and somewhere in the darkness off our bow, a breaking of water, a stinkpot or frog spooked into the shallows, a salamander risking the bass cover. We pump the bulb, check the gas line, the tank lying under the cooler. Someone should have changed the plugs. All night we have trolled the deep water, the banks, the weedy bottom around the pads, thrown deep runners, live shiners, plastic worms and lizards, jigs and flies, a Vienna sausage, a sardine, a wad of chewed gum, and for all our tackle have failed again to dredge up the one dream bass to swim forever above our bronzed names on the trophy wall of the Lake Jackson bait shop, or even a few good bream for the iron pans rusting on our kitchen walls. And now the motor choked down in the pad stalks, stalled in the quiet water needled with grass, driftless, the only current the wake our weight-shift slaps into the cove. One oar and not a running light on the lake, mosquitoes drizzling out of the shallows across the mouth 48 ¦ The Missouri Review David Bottoms of the cove, the last beer can floating off the stern where you threw it at a rainbow jitterbug snagged in the underbrush. David Bottoms The Missouri Review · 49 ...


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