In the vernacular gallery

Country Preacher 1860­/90, white pine, Art Institute of Chicago

Hanging quilt and the gazes of the carved half-dozen
prows of ships and this preacher, upright and upholding
the opened and planed smooth Word of God in his lap,
he fixes his hollowed eyes past the book, on a particular
point of sight, devotional turn for the wooden minds
in his care. Or recollects a work song from before the war
and feels its hum in his brow and high cheeks that betray
the grain of southern white pine, deep gouges of chisel
and time. I am praying to him now, that the split in his spine
will hold. That like his arms blessed tight to his trunk, he will
keep his own counsel until the Spirit fires him alive as the free
hand and eye of the vernacular maker whose sermon he is.