Small Wooden Church Bank

(Iredell, Texas 1956)

All I have left of my great grandparents,
is a little wooden church bank for pennies.
It once sat proudly on their doily-dressed chest
next to the family Bible and snapshots of each of us.

It fits nicely in one of my hands.
Holding it takes me back to my tenth summer
at their home in Iredell, Texas sitting on their porch.
As the men folk whittled and told stories of rabbit hunts and rattlesnakes,
the womenfolk pressed muskadine grapes in a sieve to make red-purple jelly.
Once I’d tired of tossing yellow pawpaw fruits into a tinned can,
I’d take my horny toad for a walk on his string leash.
Still later, by the light of the yellow-light-bulb moon,
I’d tie a thread to a June bug’s leg for aerial delight.

Just who did I think I was trying to tame
wild nature and make it my pet?

Like them, I guess, Susan Claudie and Andrew.
The same way I captured lightening bugs in a mason jar,
they tried to cage God’s wildness in a wooden church house.
I picture them sitting inside on hard pews, singing
“I’ll fly away oh glory” like rapture-happy birds
chirping away in a funny brown birdhouse.

The last thing I wanted was to fly away from there.
What I wanted was to wiggle down the soft sand like a horny toad
and bury myself in the cool of the morning earthiness, and
then, when the moon peeked from around the windmill,
to blink and wink my very special lightening bug code
from the roots of the pawpaw, singing wild and free:
“This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine…”

The small town church where they went
held God captive every Wednesday and Sunday
so’s they could sing to Him and pray for each other.

Fifty some-odd summers later,
this wooden bank is my treasure.
When I slide open the wooden plank
at the bottom of the bank to open it
and draw in a deep, deep breath,
I think I smell God in there.