Paul Swenson's "Strange Gods" (1997)

i lust after strange gods
the god who blesses the black sheep
in the hardwood pews of a despised denomination
the woman who lays her dark head on the shoulder
of an even darker woman, and sings
"faith of our fathers," leaning into the hymn
even as she leans into her lover's embrace

the god who blesses the woolly head of the old ram
wise ram crowned with an unruly shock of white
stopped making the music of the herd
when it ceased to fill him with ecstasy
but is still charged with the static
electricity of the mountaintop
bless the lambs who see the lightning in his eyes

i lust for the god of black gospel
who deposits us in calvary's dark vestibule
then opens the door to the light where the choir
sings "i'll fly away," and mahogany women in white
gloves usher us into a heaven where the reverend
gary davis, sonny terry, brownie mcghee, queen ida,
skip james and odetta shake the walls with their voices

i lust for the veiled god
who will not go to war with her children
will not author famine or floods
will not prune the buds of her most promising flowers
in some grand apocalypse
will reveal her face at the wedding with the bridegroom
i lust after strange gods


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