Listening to gospel music


is waking early 6 a.m.
on Sunday, a minute before the made-in-Taiwan
fake wood-grained clock radio set to go off,

buried on the middle shelf of the aluminum nightstand
underneath the carved gold
Jean-Francois Millet peasant girl lamp

turned on the Brother Reverend Heyward,
spinning The Mighty Clouds of Joy,

praise the lobster Cantonese Style,
bless the shrimps (sic) lobster sauce
and Sister, gimme an amen! the Four Seasons---
"mmmmm boy, good eating---
Johnny Lee cooks up at Hong Kong Restaurant
in Orangeburg on Highway 301 south, Edisto Drive.

Open seven days a week
the actual time it took Our Good Lord
to make His Earth; so call ahead and
place your order to go or eat in.

Just mention you heard this ad to Johnny
and get an album free
compliments of me and WDIX in St. Matthews
when ordering take-out only."

Hundreds to choose from
faded cardboard cutouts
of onward Christian soldiers lined up to march
stacked side by side behind the bar

across the Jordan
through parched desert to the Promised Land,
a holy pilgrimage the Brother Reverend
proselytized his faithful to partake.

Mom, dressed in beefeater red
perched atop her vinyl-covered barstool

like Mahalia in satin church robes,
belting baleful notes about Her Savior,

looms above the devoted flock
gathered to receive Holy Communion
behind her glass pulpit
well-stocked with rows of mini-bottles
and souvenir chopsticks

steadfast, her arms crossed
waiting for the congregation to decide
passing judgement,
issuing decrees on what was available

what She made available
power-drunk, playing God.

Moses and his date Mary Theresa
recite aloud the menu in manuscript
ten pages long speaking tongues

Her swift sword of righteous might
flung backward to strike at what She chose
as the cheap turntable
plopped down the Staple Sisters
who beck and call
approvingly.

A half order of pork fried rice
She determined
entitled the paying customer
to the Reverend C. W. Franklin
recorded from Detroit live
this time around

just as the Brother Reverend
walked in for his weekly solace
of seafood Johnny style
off the menu.