Poem of the Day: Michael Chitwood’s “The Saved”

The Saved

From cutting the nuts out of a bull calf’s bag with a Barlow,
from laying case knives on a dress pattern,
from running a trotline and baiting the hooks with gone liver,
from mashing a tobacco worm into a green blot,
from crimping dough at the piecrust edge,
from whisking an egg,
from whipping a boy with a switch he fetched,
from doffing a bolt of taffeta,
from working the one arm of the adding machine,
from beating the answers out of the erasers
Oh Lamb of God, they come.
If you
would be
born again,
if you
would purge
your sin
in the scalding
blood, the blood
shed for you,
if you
would accept
the death
into the water
and the life
rising out,
Three stars inside the moon’s halo three nights in a row.
When a snapper latches on, he’ll only release if it thunders.
Maud Brown could blow thrush from a baby’s mouth.
Phillip Amos would take fire out.
Shirleen Anderson could speak warts away.
To bring someone home, take a lock of their hair and walk backward to their door      and in over the threshold.
Lard rendered on the wrong side of the moon will go rancid.
A pregnant woman should not look at the full moon or even the full moon’s      reflection.
He cried out
and asked
his father
why he was
I want you
fathers and
you mothers
to think
on that,
your only child,
nails tearing
his hands,
those hands
you held.
Spikes driven
into those feet
you washed
and kissed
when they
were dry,
think on
this gift
you fathers
and mothers.
Mud randy as a ripe corpse.
River thick brown, a liquid road, going on its own dirt and taking its path as it goes.
A canopy of green, a living, breathing roof and the light through it green.
Mockingbirds splash. Amble of the opossum. Cardinal a red thread run
     through the green warp.
Moccasin a muscle brown and blunt.
Frog all fart, all ja-rump, all slap and not a bad meal if you have a mess.
Carp nudge a drowned cow and sup.
The green buzz and crawl of it all.
Take His hand.
Come down
this aisle
tonight. Name
Jesus as your
Lord and
Hold those
bleeding hands.
He died
that you
might live,
that you
might not
know the Devil’s
breath on
your neck,
a breath
like sour milk.
He feeds
on flesh,
the maggoty
flesh of
this world.
He died
that you
would not
feel the Devil’s
claws in
your soft skin,
those claws
crusted and brown
with old blood.
I’m holding
the Devil off
right now,
but Old Scratch
wants you.
He wants
you to stay
in your pew.
He wants you
to think about
a new car,
that TV show,
that baseball glove,
that Barbie.
Are you thinking
about them?
If you are,
the Devil’s grinning.
Poplar and gum. Some oak and maple. Sassafras and dogwood in the
Blackberry bramble white in May with blooms that by July will be fat drops
     of sweet ink.
Whippoorwills address the evening in our tongue.
And bobwhites the day. Crows laugh. Terrapins hiss. Squirrels bark and dogs bark and the groundhog whistles a tune, a tune from roots, a tune fed by timothy and purple clover, a tune from fur and yellow ever-growing teeth, a tune from sturdy little hands and their dirt-polished claws, a tune most local, a sinful tune if this world is sin.
Don’t you
see him
Don’t you
see his sharp
yellow teeth?
Don’t you
hear him whistle
that little tune
for dancing
in the sulfurous fires?
Don’t you
hear that tune,
that beautiful
little tune,
he whistles
just for you?

Born in Rocky Mount, Virginia, Michael Chitwood was exposed to Christianity throughout his life. As a poet and essayist, he drew upon the many religious dogmas of his youth and placed them in ink. In his poem “The Saved,” he explores the idea of sin, morality, and the vulnerability of man to the vices of the Devil.
He masterfully evokes images of Jesus and his greatest gift to humanity: innocence. Throughout the poem, Chitwood emphasizes Jesus’ gift, almost guilting the reader into accepting God’s son into his/her life in the most masterful way. He also makes use of the terrifying effigy of Lucifer and the ease with which he is able to disease a mind. However, the last thing this poem does is force; it intimidates in the softest way possible. Personally, I am not religious in the least bit, but I fell in love with this poem for its graceful and fearful tone.
In addition to the themes, Chitwood’s technical ability as a poet truly shines in this piece. He employs alliteration, repetition, and, my personal favorite, an unusual meter. Every stanza varies in structure, forcing the reader to engage actively in reading the poem, and gives a purposeful aura to each word; no line feels out of place or meaningless.
“The Saved” is what I strive for each of my poems to be: multilayered works that hide the largest of details in the smallest of words; poems that do not pretend to be anything that isn’t written in the black and white before a reader; poems that, despite how distant the subject matter is, leave a lasting impression on its reader.
                                                                                                                     — Peter Kim
Peter Kim is a sophomore majoring in political science. He uses poetry to remind himself of his human self and as an anchor to always never stray from what he is. He is an avid fan of hip-hop and his favorite artists are Big L, Kanye West, Freddie Gibbs, and Jay Electronica.

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