I spoke tongues in church once –
surrounded by others speaking tongues.
I didn’t know what anyone was saying,
even myself, but they said that was
the point: just rejoice in being the instrument.
It was like a pick-up game of spirituality,
the pastor calling anyone feeling compelled
to the front. I stood cemented in the pew
as others already feeling the spirit trickled
down the aisles. I wondered if it was wrong
to only like church because the smell
of the bibles reminded me of our home
bookshelf. Was I going to Hell if I didn’t
feel God even here?
This pew was going to dry and harden
completely with me in it if I didn’t force
myself out into the murmuring expanse.
Suddenly, I was up front, wading in gibberish
and reddening faces – ties beginning to soak
at the end like damp wicks.
If this were the playground, my mother
would have hooked her hand under
my shoulder and pulled me away from
the crowd of strangers. Instead, I looked
past the pulsating throng to her in the pew
pushing back proud tears. My mouth had
not stopped forming meaningless syllables.
Above me, in the background, there was
a crucifix statue hanging precariously
over a small pool for baptisms. I imagined
Christ pleading forgiveness on my behalf
to his Father. The tested excuse of ignorance
already used up for His murderers and faking
tongues not measuring up, He offered up fear
Salvation, at this point in my life, had felt
like a secret whispered underwater. So I let
my vocal cords vibrate, my tongue wet my lips,
my voice push bubbles out – hoping there was
an actual message to translate. I was breathless
by the time we filed back to our pews.
My mom ran polished nails through my hair
when I returned. She beamed the rest of the sermon,
only I felt emptier. If I was God’s instrument for
that brief time, he had found me practice-grade.
Unfit for more than a few brittle notes. I stood
feeling as if my lungs were only expanding
and contracting, void of the melody of His breath.
Some days, I feel closer to God lying beside
my wife at night than I did that day. Some days,
I imagine windy days as God desperately blowing
in any direction hoping to catch the hollow body
of my faith – and those are the days I snatch my
son from the living room couch and pretend
we are both untethered wind chimes blowing
across our backyard.
About the Author
David Walker writes intermittently, at best. He is a husband and a father. He has published two poetry chapbooks and has one forthcoming. His work appears in Soundings East, Menacing Hedge, ELJ, Sediments, and others. He is also the founding editor at Golden Walkman Magazine.