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Amanda McQuade

Honorable Mention 2012 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Poet:
Amanda McQuade has been published in Ruminate, Grasslimb, and Ampersand Review. Currently, she lives in the Charlotte area with her husband and daughter. They are expecting a new little girl in May.

About this Poem:
My first intention with "Modern Hymn" was to write about the struggles of an independent Bible church, like the one I currently attend, but I quickly found that complaining about your church polity, even through poetry, was rather draining and frankly boring. So I decided to just see where the mood and tone of the images in the poem would lead, and through that process the themes of salvation and rebirth came to the surface; which eventually became the overall subject of the poem.

Modern Hymn

It’s a Wednesday without any offering
wearing denim, a sweater, or a little more
in metal chairs, we’re filled in & far-flung.

A dulcimer slips in and out of consciousness
across a wool lap; some hands wave,
blurring scribbles & tittles. I fall
into the program & inserts.

Tune labors, a gaping trout
rolling balls & sticks and loops
threading between this make-shift tent
& an expanse of grass.

Wash me, wash me away, my God.
My spirit falters, rises up & disappears
between railroad tie beams
only to be caught up as breath in the night.

My Lord, laugh loudly. Laugh near my head.
Pressing forehead to white oak pew,
I press & press so I can no longer feel
the bridge between wood & flesh;

my mouth forms awkward o’s
doleful waters expelling notes that grope
thick thighs with warmth
bottoms squared by chairs.

At break, we gasp air cool with night,
lit up with Abraham’s children,
heads bend and nod together, but
I am heavy. I am a red balloon
sinking in this field full of long stemmed oats.

As I sit here, new songs carry I & ME
drowning Rock of Ages in the baptistery:
refrain, refrain, refrain. Shrill & wilting,
I collapse. I fold in on myself
as a foamy white wave. I break.

Theology’s cool hand
pivots in my cheeks.
I hear cymbal, string, & wind
smack a cross, wood-pitted
& nailed to the overhang. I see the pits:

His palms run-over with notes, vibrating
songs cherubim bellow out: Holy.
Holy. Holy. God. The elohim.
This Jesus-hymn:
everything to the man, nothing to I Am.

Hymn-keeper, hymn-creator
conducting my spirit off the floor
as if I were held together by string
or a grain of sand, sifted & sifted & plucked.

He arrives to shore & looks out to His sea
to ripples in the waters edging that blur a faint reflection.

His palms dip
& parting our lips with His lips,
He breathes.

Lips bud & curl
as flowers scorched
& low
the worshiping soul clamors
as phoenix from ash,
carrying on its wing expanse
the body-Renaissance.

Copyright ©2012 Amanda McQuade