The voices said...

...he was a minister from France,
lost, deported, ass-kicked
from the city of lights
and he believed them, took
the same Parisian trail his mother
took in her pampered-rich youth
before they booted him for real
this time for attempts to force
his way behind a French pulpit.

Sometimes the voices told him
to hit people; nonbelievers,
unwashed pagans who hadn't yet
been awed by his halo, kissed
his rings, the hem of his robe.
They were intense, these voices,
sometimes waking him in the night,
body still quivering from coffee
and cigarette overdose, to take
notes for his next sermon.

I remember my cousin before the voices came,
deft hands beating me at ping pong,
muscular legs edging up Montreat hills
with his sister and me, our breath
leaving smoke signals in the cool air
for make-believe Indians to follow.
His grin could vanquish scary shadows.
Sunlight tangled itself through his pale hair.

The call came last Sunday.
An explosion inside his head.
Limbs frozen.
Words sucked back into the black
hole of his stare.

I wonder if the voices have been silenced, too,
or if they torment with unspeakable threats,
trap him in unutterable horror.
I hope he's found his way to Montreat again,
laughter echoing across Lake Susan's icy waters.
I hope he's become an eagle there, wings
lifting him beyond the voices' grasp. 

Pris Campbell

Eagle image found at THIS SITE

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