Fiction: Serpent Crown

smith - snake


For who hath seen the wind, praise Jesus, and who hath heard the Word?  Here today now at this brush arbor homecoming for the True Vine Pentecost with Christ’s blessing we hereby raise our voices of light and take up evil’s minions, grip Satan by his tail and overcome, as we welcome Sister Rita to our flock.  Dear ones, the red letters and gold edges of the Book are precious, but now I take them up, these writhing conspirers.  I look them in the eye, Satan’s lightning, the split tongue aiming to ruin truth, but I am in the spirit and walking on faith’s golden road, brothers, deep in the Holy Ghost power, Holy Ghost power.  Not in Jolo nor Dolley Pond nor Baxter are the serpents more wily than here at our threshold tonight, my brothers, Praise Jesus, not at Mink Creek nor Paint Rock nor any other place is the Savior’s electricity so strong nor the anointing so sweet.  Say it now, Sister Rita.  Haganadala shusha toladado.  There is power in the blood, josofronda, mentakia.  Step forth if you feel His hand on your shoulder, if your heart is blessed in His living water.  Listen to that Emore boy on the Gibson git-harp playing secret notes straight from the Seraphim.  We shudder and sway like this, listen, we will never, praise Jesus, lie, but we will drink lye and other deadly potions for He is with us and He is in us, Holy Ghost power, He rises from the lilies and no slithernor dark deceiver can harm Him or us as we cherish in His spell.  Speak now with honeyed tongues, dear sister, ocalanon-amessil-wodonaga.  Hear me when I raise my voice in the blessed words the Pharisee, blasphemer and hypocrite cannot understand nor utter.  It is no blather or babble but the tongues of saints and angels.  How sweet they sound, and just trust Jesus, who is sweeter still.  See how they spit and wind about my wrist, Satan’s minions crawled up from the dark fires of Hell, lay the diamonds about my arm like bracelets of princedom, like living veins, and Sister Gracie right beside me lifts two copperheads and a rattler like they would raise her, and we are safe in the power, celebrating the Holy Ghost power that runs in our hearts, bright and sweet.  Do you feel it, Sister Rita, do you sense the surge?  No diadems nor other lucre will we honor, no rings nor ingots, coins nor torcs, for we follow the True God who sets a table before us under the eye of our enemy, the poison gaze of those swillers of wine, worshipers of the flesh, defilers of the sacred land.just hid under the form of this being the demon uses for his low purposes, like a crown of deadly glory but we relish his presence and rebuke him, praise glory, as all joy is a fountain flowing and He is with us as much as in the thunder and peaks of Zion, He sees us like three boys in the furnace fire all circled with venom and deadliness but smiling, dear Jesus.  I am smiling at the fierceness and praising You, Lord, even when the serpent tenses, even when he lays his eye on me and prepares a greater trial, just so You are with me and my heart is within Yours, never am I in doubt but welcoming Your mysterious wisdom, just waiting for the fangs to find me, waiting as I am swaying for you dear Lord for you in this moment.  See, oh brothers and sisters, and look hard now our new Sister Rita, at how he coils like honeysuckle and wiggles his tongue, how my serpent crown wishes to kiss me in this blessed blazing instant – sun like goldenrod in the window, the altar red as a bellowed forge, every voice a cry in the wilderness – the instant that is ever and always the sweetest bliss.  Witness and drink deep from His fountain, Sister Rita.  We are all salt of the earth and washed in the love of the Lamb.  The viper cannot hurt you.  He is only a halo.  Fear not, sister, come one step closer.  Trust the balm of Jesus.  We shall gather unharmed at the river.  Fear not the demon,  Just take my hand.

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R.T. Smith’s stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South, Esquire, The Atlantic, Poetry, Sequestrum, The Kenyon Review, and others. Smith has published four short story collections, most recently Sherburne(National Magazine Award for Fiction), and fourteen books of poems, most recently In the Night Orchard: New and Selected Poems. Three times he has won the Library of VA Poetry Book of the Year Awards. Smith is the former editor of Southern Humanities Review and current editor of Shenandoah.