For the Boy in Bayou Blue who Spoke in Tongues

by Jack Bedell

When he was twelve, he made the national news
to his parents’ delight and filled the pews
of the Living World with gaggles of girls and
tourists eager to hear the sermon he’d planned
for A Current Affair. His long, curly hair
and sparkly eyes glowed when he’d share
his witness with the congregation. He’d shout
and swoon and lash his tongue while rows fell out
rolling in ecstasy around his raised
pulpit. It pleased the deacons when the crazed,
fainting crowds filled their baskets with money,
but no one wondered when his eyes rolled a funny
white back into his head if he were reading from
cards inside his skull, or if the Spirit would come
and improvise the whole show for him
while his mouth spewed syllables like phlegm.

Jack B. Bedell was born and raised in south Louisiana. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches before attending the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, where he earned his M.F.A. He now teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University where he serves as Editor of Louisiana Literature. His first book, At the Bonehouse, won the 1997 Texas Review Prize, and his chapbook, What Passes for Love, was the winner of the 2000 Texas Review Chapbook Competition.

from At the Bone House (Texas Review Press) © 1998 by Jack B. Bedell. Used by permission of the author.