By Pam Anderson

The Preacher Man takes off his watch,
shows its face to the people,
and hangs it from the edge of his pulpit.
To keep me honest, he says.
For all you ladies with roasts in the oven.
The women nod approval and the men settle back.

He starts out slow and soft
like that lonely mosquito in your bedroom at night.
The ladies sit up front in their flowered silk dresses
and wave folded church bulletins to cool off.

The Preacher Man’s voice rises and I see
a spray of spit shoot from his mouth.
Oh, Jesus! he chants,
and the people moan Amen.

He pulls a white handkerchief from his pocket
and wipes the streaming sweat from his forehead,
his cheeks, each side of his neck.
The cloth goes back in his pocket,
still neat and folded.

The woman beside me pulls her wadded hanky
from her bodice,
wipes her eyes, then blows her nose
with soft little puffs.
She stuffs it back into hiding   secure
in the spot close to her armpit.

It’s hot.  But you know it’s hotter
in hell, so sweat with the Preacher Man
and love your pain.  Guaranteed
to make the bed softer in Heaven.

He quivers and lifts up high on his toes.
His big belly throws the jacket to his suit wide,
the tie slips up, and button-holes
expand and stress.  His finger points,
then slices down through the air, cutting
a horizontal piece of pie.

He is a direct-order mail piece stuffed
in your box—sent by God to bring home the sinners.
My fear of God stems from the dread
that he will see me laugh.  Catch
the doubt in my eyes.
I am shackled to the edges of his smile.

Pamela R. Anderson’s poetry and book reviews have appeared in the Barn Owl Review, Whiskey Island Press, Hobble Creek Review, Epitome, Penguin Review and elsewhere. Her poem “My Brother’s Coat: January 1943” was recently recognized as a winner in The Association of Writers & Writing Programs Intro Journals Project and will be published in Controlled Burn. A graduate of Hiram College and Kent State University, she currently is a master’s candidate in the NEOMFA program and, during the day, works at 89.7 WKSU-FM, Kent State University’s public radio station.

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