The Sermon: First Baptist, 1988 – James Miller

We were holy high-schooled, and most of us
had parents, two at least. I would brother/sister

of a Sunday with the congregants, stand for the tunes
and sit when our ears closed. The psalms were not bad,

not quite. We sang from Reagan’s bitter-canker Gulf Coast—
US Steel was dead, Exxon promised to feed us fishes.

Last Temptation would open wide next week. I’d seen
the enraged crowds on CNN, their yawning, their yapping.

Bought the novel at the mall, flipped to the end, found blanks
in the back pages for the sermon—and Brother Mark stood to share.

He had it on good authority, blasphemous blood poured
from twelve apostle mouths at the Last Supper, stained

their exquisite white beards and their immaculate white
sandals. Peter had white teeth sharp enough to pick the savior

from his best BBQ Buffalo wings. Outrage in the pews, on cue.
But I preferred the delicious images the sermon served.

Demonic cannibal surfers, feast days flash frozen on VHS,
dubs on dubs ghosting to grime. Better than any Italian splatter-

horror banned in thirty-seven countries! And the pastor?
Brother Mark was thirsting for a drink, backstage.

Longed to pull off that rust-welt necktie, his collar soaked
with sorrow, sorrow.

James MillerJames Miller won the Connecticut Poet Award in 2020. His poems have appeared in Cold Mountain Review, The Maine Review, Lullwater Review, Lunch Ticket, Gravel, Juked, Meat for Tea, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, The Atlanta Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rogue Agent, Sweet Tree Review, Thin Air, The Inflectionist Review and elsewhere.