Rebuiding Church (A Poem)

St. John’s Baptist Church Before 2015 Tornado, Desha, Virginia

St. John’s

Got to scrappin’, grappling

With Deshae

out some windows

And Mt. Landing

Out the others.


Her pews grip

150 Black years

Of Essex County History

Refusing to gut

those hymnals.

She made music

Through many a hurricane,

Annexed vacation bible school,

And buried our dead.


We wound up those roads

Closing the gap

between the promise and poverty

Every Sunday

To celebrate

Our candid selves;

Church is as much the building

As the people.


Climate change can’t erode

The clay and gravel memories that creak

When you stand on them right.

It eats away at the river’s edges,

Drowns muskrats,

Tells a tornado

Tappahannock is strong enough

To recover.


We had to find God

When tears taste like catastrophe

But run like Hoskins creek,

Run like our only safety Is the bathtub

From a rented trailer,

Run like toxic stewardship and displacement are

good enough excuses.


Recovery ain’t

a 12 step program.

It’s –

Red Cross been gone

And all we got is us:

Wading through debris

Frying fish

Cherishing communion cups

Polishing the collection plate

Building funds

In the foraged and forgotten fields


We erect that steeple.


We bred the dogs in this fight

With leftover liberation and lack

Suckling oppression until it was

Salt on Watermelon Sweet

cutting their teeth

By not crying victim

But seething,


And muddy.


Black ecologies

Have no liturgy

Just legacy

Lived experiences

On decimated logging farms

60 miles from the Confederate Capital.

Suffrage so nonchalant

Stars are closer

Than the preacher’s benediction

And louder than that whistle.


Share with a friend:
Copyright © AAIHS. May not be reprinted without permission.


Lavinia Jackson

Lavinia Jackson is a native of Tappahannock, Va and a resident of Greensboro, NC. She taught the homeless and veterans to write again through her service with the NC VetsCorps. She is one of the Founders of Sigma Theta Lambda Literary Sorority. She co-facilitated the Visual Poetry Walk and is the curator of the Community Arts Boxes. She facilitates monthly poetry workshops with the public library. Lavinia received her Creative Writing/Philosophy Degree from Loyola College in 1994.

Comments on “Rebuiding Church (A Poem)

  • Avatar

    I’ve never been to Tappahanock, however reading this literature took me on a journey there; documentary style. The author helped us use all of our senses in this piece of ardent creativity. Well done.

  • Avatar

    Deeply moving. So grounded in the real and in hope (which is also the real). Keep erecting that steeple.

Comments are closed.