by Ron Rash

When Reverend Marcus Weathers pitched his tent
outside the mill to make a three-night stand
against the devil and all forms of sin,
we did our best to be there every night.

Friday evening he preached the love of God,
and all His gifts we should be thankful for,
most of all for Jesus who had shed
his blood that we might get another chance.

The second night he listed all the vices
sure to keep us outside heaven’s gate,
cards and drink, dancing, fornicating,
smoking and swearing, all our other pleasures.

He saved the worst for last, as preachers will
to keep us living right. He spoke to us
of constant noise and darkness visible,
of heat worse than a July afternoon.

That’s when Alec Price stood up and spoke.
He’d had a drink or two before he came.
“Forgive me if I interrupt,” he said,
“but sounds to me like I’m already dead,

because that place you’re telling us about
is across the road, Eureka’s weaving room.
After tonight I see why mill and hell
are spelled almost the same and sound alike.”

We laughed that night but later there were times,
when we were sweating in that cotton mill,
we’d try our best to remember another life,
and what bad things we’d done to end up here.

      Eureka Mill
     Hub City Press, 2001