Drive north down Highway 301, past
the school where, weekdays, deaf children
run wild on the playground. Keep going until
you see the sign, "Snake Man," then turn left
into Camper's Lodge and swing on around
past the turquoise pool in front of the
Laundromat and park your car. Get out and
go inside-any wayfaring stranger is welcome
here of a Sunday morning, rain or shine.
Take a seat in one of the six pews painted
white as the washers and dryers lined up in
the back of the room. If it's winter when you
arrive, I'd advise you to bundle up in layers,
and don't forget your thick socks, gloves,
and lug-sole boots. The cold north wind
creeps through these cinderblock walls like
pneumonia into lungs. Soon you'll meet the
"Preacher Lady" and members of her flock,
the Snake Man included, and sister Kim,
newlywed, along with her husband Blinky.
Don't worry if you've been drinking, just leave
your bottle outside for the time being. You
never know, this could be your lucky day.
If the weather is warm, short sleeves are fine.
No need to hide the craters on your arms. To
these folks, needle marks are common as acne
on a teen, or tractors on a farm. You won't
hear any Trinity chimes or sing the usual
hymns, recite the Apostle's Creed, drop a
check in the offering. Just come as you are.
You have nothing to fear, nothing to dread
There is no religion here, but for the laying
on of hands and the resurrection of the dead.
Debra Elramey received a poet laureate award from the North Carolina Poetry Society in 2005. She lives in Wilson, North Carolina.