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Morn’s light breaks o’er scene serene,

cock a crowin’ whilst cattle stir;

breakin’ o’ bread, ere gentle partin’ kiss,

‘tis August, an’ annual affair occurs.


Some atop horse or mule, others afoot,

trek ‘cross farmland an’ dusty lane;

‘tis a time pined for, a day long awaited,

‘tis migrant, evangelistic campaign.


‘pon plot newly cleared with sawe ‘n axe,

midst stand o’ pine an’ sassafras;

atop ground strewn o’ needle’s quite fine,

rests aged truck bearin’ canvas mass.


Both olden men an’ wee lads mill ‘round,

patchy grasses an’ weeds yet stout;

as crews plan an’ measure pressin’ task,

for season o’ revival is nigh about.


Fiery rays from noontime sun radiates,

‘pon dirt-streaked, sweatin’ back;

neath neck, cerise red, as sinewy arms,

bronzed an’ gaunt, poised ready to strike.


Kneeling lad, o’ years scarcely twelve,

oaken peg ‘n hand frail an’ slight;

whilst wooden mallet swiftly descends,

to strike ‘pon stake clutched tight.


Hammers echoin’ thru both hill an’ dale

melody o’ deliverance a nearin’;

 craftsmen planin’ roughly miln planks,

for seatin’ assembly o’ God fearin’.


Aroma o’ musty canvas fills sultry air,

spread ‘pon scantily grassed soil;

as curlin’ wisps o’ vapor, lazily risin’,

meet flarin’ nostrils o’ men at toil.


Backs strain to lift oaken poles aright,

gruntin’ an’ groanin’, reddened faces;

townsfolk, volunteers, ev’ry soul o’ ‘em,

as an orchestra, each ‘n proper places.


Peak, steeply sloped, rises ‘n e’en’s light,

sawdust freshly strewn ‘pon earth;

hostin’ crudely hewn pews o’ yellow pine,

carefully placed neath flaxen tent’s girth.


 Wagons and carriages gather ‘pon site,

drawn by steeds o’ varyin’ breed;

 ‘tis bib overalls, apparel for hatted men,

kerchiefs e’er moppin’ at sudation's bead.


Women adorned ‘n dresses o’ gingham,

berry dyed, hues o’ blues an’ reds;

hands clutchin’ both songbook an’ Bible,

hair pinned high, atop wearied heads.


Some clutchin’ a babe gently ‘n arm,

a sucklin’ noisily at bared breast;

others mindin’ striplings o’ lad an’ lass,

sportin’ raiment o’ Sunday’s best.


Fillin’ rows o’ pew, papas an’ mamas,

stair-stepped progeny ‘longside;

younger men millin’ outside o’ assembl’d,

most yet lingerin’, only out ‘o pride.


A small group o’ coarser men huddle,

perhaps a dozen or so yards away;

whilst a few lads ‘n chase o’ one another

‘round tattered old tent ‘n play.


Bottles ‘neath overalls make emergence,

accompanyin’ hymns from within;

lifted to parched lips, lowly swearin’,

carafes o’ whiskies, ryes an’ hard gin.


As resonance o’ ‘mazing grace wanes,

folk set ‘n to lowly murmur;

“where’s this feller what does preachin’?

an’ what’d we even come here fer?”


As he steps ‘hind rough pine postern,

a hush sweeps o’er entire crowd;

with flesh grotesque, hued ashen white,

an’ livery liken to a funeral shroud.


 With visage hard as granite, eyes o’ coal,

set ‘n furrowed brow, tightly knit;

ebon hair swept back, quite lengthy,

silvery streaked, wild an’ unkempt.


Rude hands more fittin’ o’ a lumberjack

clutchin’ at old, black-backed book;

forefinger, coarse an’ bony, a flippin’ pages,

frayed edged an’ a mite worn-looked.


Settlin’ ‘pon a passage, fingers pausin’,

with unope’d eyes lift’d upward;

“Heavenly Father,” resonant voice utters

“our most kind an’ gracious Lord.


Let us'uns what's a gather'd this ev’n,

brake ope’ Thy Holy Bread o’ Life;

bowin’ our heart an’ soul humbly to Thee,

layin’ aside e’ery trouble ‘n strife.”


With an amen he sets ‘n to his readin’

a text drawn from Luke’s gospel writin’;

ev’ry eye fixed ‘pon his countenance,

each ear ‘pon words, e’er invitin’.


‘bout a certain beggar named Lazarus

’at died, as he wast quite unwell;

an’ a rich feller who passed thereafter,

what lift up his eyes ‘n hell.


Possessin’ elocution like unto a scholar,

powerful voice so softly discreet;

readin’ select passage ‘n crowd’s hearin’,

with nary a soul a shiftin’ ‘n seat.


Nearin’ endin’ o’ his dulcet narration,

timbre risin’ with each word said;

pointin’ a finger, he ended nigh shoutin’,

“though one rose from the dead.”


Ponderin’ o’ righteousness, o’ temperance,

an’ o’ judgment what’s sure to come;

preachin’ o’ Christ an’ Him crucified’

'clarin’ God's expiation wast indeed done.


Outside tarried a railroad electrician’

a stout, rather comely young man;

listenin’ to the good gospel preachin’,

clutchin’ a wee lassie’s tiny hand.


“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth,”

the harried old preacher didst cry;

“the Lord Jesus, an’ shalt believe…”

his voice a fadin’ as if ‘twould die.


“In thine heart that God hath raised…”

pausin’, whilst a moppin’ at his head;

then resumin’ ‘n a coarse, low whisper,

“hath raised him from the dead.”


Grabbin’ for breath, he finish'd by sayin’,

“thou… thou shalt be saved.”

His gaunt frame seemed nigh to shudder,

an’ bowin’ his head, he prayed.


Whilst an invitation wast extended,

folk a singin’ with all their heart;

“Just… as… I am… without one plea;”

tears o’ repentance commenced to start.


‘an there at the gospel tent’s entrance

knellin’ down ‘pon one knee;

one arm encirclin’ his fair daughter,

‘at young railroader wast set free.


Lifting his only child, (my own dear mama),

an carryin’ her ‘n ‘at sweet place;

he stroll’d to tent’s front quite boldly,

testifyin’ o’ God’s wondrous, savin’ grace.