In the Deep South, God is a cotton king,
Trussed up in plantation whites and powdered over smooth
with a little bit of talcum from Momma’s compact.
He’s the Georgia dust that gets on everything, in everything,
Caking the soles of bare feet
sifting through cracks in church pews,
and catching in your lover’s eyelashes.
In the Deep South, the Devil is a beautiful boy
who swears and cheats at billiards on Sunday.
He is the one who reaches up your skirt,
pulls out the prayers you were saving for someday
and lights them on fire with his tongue.
He will sing hymns while feasting on your forfeit heart,
call you blessed while peeling away dignity like stockings,
then drag you out in front of the church to be stoned.
In the Deep South, the Holy Spirit is an old woman
with hands brown and gnarled as the nuts she boils
and a voice soft and dark as the Appalachian sky.
She is the swamp kingdom matriarch children are sent to
when sins need to be wished away like warts,
the presence of whom straightens the spines of wayward souls
and coaxes a “Yes Ma’am” from the devil’s own.
In the Deep South, Jesus is a mixed-race child
with drops of destiny mingled into his blood
and the names of the saints tattooed along his spine.
He has his mother’s bearing, one that wears suffering nobly,
and baleful eyes that speak of the sins of his forefathers.
The word of God flutters from his mouth like butterflies
with bodies baptized in tears and wings dipped in steel.
In the Deep South, angels drink too much.
They sashay and guffaw and forget to return calls.
They tell white lies and agonize over what to wear.
In the Deep South, angels look very much like you and I,
and they cling to each other with dustbowl desperation
and replenish their failing reserves of grace with ritual
in the hopes of remembering what they once were,
what wonders they once were capable of performing.