One Word After Another Cracker Word is Unclean by Amy Wright

Rev. Mabe preaches that the throat is an open grave,

borrowing a phrase from Paul, to lash tongues

that are weak and cautelous, though he’d not say so himself

if he too was not condemned by his base nature

to be ego-centric, willing to commit ignoble acts for money

—according to a survey—as long as no one finds out about it.


Terry Lee keeps Esther’s bone-baring secrets,

who keeps Winslow’s, who keeps Rose’s,

who keeps Brother Preston’s, who thanks everyone for coming

to church this morning, fresh as he is from the hospital

inspired by his Jobean trials to sing how the Lord

will lead them to higher ground.


Crackers romanticize hometown legends and houses with syrup-

giving maples that lure them into otherwise aleatoric futures.

They chance lottery freedom fantasies but trust nothing

except the Ten Commandments and that eternal damnation

or reward that awaits them. The final decision remains uncertain,

since they don’t follow the commandments like Sister Linda.


Devil Dogs wear black anklets with flip-flops, affix cattle horns

to the hoods of Cadillacs, and make up their own rules.

Arn won’t buy more clothes than he has chrome hangers. Manny

carries every bathtub spider outside in a Dixie cup unless

it’s poison. Truck won’t desecrate his flesh with a tattoo

unless it means something, and Helen wears only brown eyeshadow.


“But not even one Cracker is good in their hearts,”

the Reverend says, “though the great gift of Grace is that

God forgives them.” They pile into the sanctuary after sermon,

buzzards into ravens, eating Isabelle’s peach cobbler.


About Amy Wright