“the language of God—a dead language, resurrected, but come back
babbled apart, missing limbs. Imagine Lazarus, four days dead:
a bloat, blood-foam leaking language.” —from “Charismata”
I spent hours most days as a child in a bleached-white country chapel, crawling under empty pews, hiding out in its mildewed basement adjacent to the cellar full of bats that sometimes slipped up into the sanctuary in the middle of my father’s bellowing sermons. I was raised Pentecostal in the foothills of the Appalachians: glossolalia was my family’s second language, my mother muttering in tongues under her breath as she scraped our dishes clean, my grandmother hollering out a dark angelic word whenever she stubbed her toe.
I never could speak that language. A queer man living in the South, my identity has often jarred against & brawled with the religion of my youth, a scrappy, intimate bout that jostles through much of my work as a poet. In my day job, a child brawls too, tugged wordless, punching, head-banging, & hollering through life, the force of his body his only vocabulary we seem to understand: a glossary of bruises & fists, determined to be heard. Exiled from language, he seems to know it more closely than most, jabbering out a menagerie of playful syllables, echoing disjointed syntax solely for the joy of sound.
All my work seems to be written at the juncture of these two languages, echolalia & glossolalia: I want my poems to be a secondhand echo of a holy tongue, a translation of the nagging babble in my head into a language even a god could understand.