Biggest hullabaloo I ever seen here
at the Methodist Church,
day Preacher’s dog, Majesty, dern fool dog,
trotted right on in alongside everyone else,

shaking dry. She the derndest flop-eared rascal
this side of Clicketty-clack circle (that’s where
the coal trains bring town traffic to a screeching
halt). Church-busting dog.
More meanness than you can shake a stick at.

Law. Strutting down the aisle,
stub of a tail pointing straight up
like she something right special,
she moved in and out between the pews—
down one side, under and out the other,
sniffing the old singing books like she greeting
anyone who ever sing all six verses
“Amazen Grace.” Sniffing for folk long gone
(and I ain’t talking about leaving town,
if you know what I mean).

Course, in all of three minutes,
the church split on what to be done about her.
Dog lovers on the left. Dog despisers on the right.
None says a word.
All’s quiet. Preacher’s footsteps
clack like dices up the walk.
Among us, such stares and glares
as would curdle buttermilk.

I heard tell years later,
“Majesty come in ‘cause it spitting snow, is all,”
but I ain’t one to speculate.
Way that critter done pulled herself up
onto the pew like she owned it?
She pressed her snout into purple cushion,
snorted and snuggled and stretched
rolled on her back
lolled out her tongue
from her black smacking smile,
lay there still as held breath,
waiting for someone
to give her belly a good rub.
None had heart to grab her collar
and shuck her out the door.

That day, sermon bumpety bumped along
all over I’ll get out, hopped here to there
like a cricket in a jar. We couldn’t figger
if Elijah coming or going. Worse —
Preacher forgot to take up tithes.
Mz. Laidlow she jumped
straight over the altar rail,
smoothing her skirt with one hand,
grabbing the plate with the other,
then passed it around right quick.
Folks scurried into pockets.
Change jangled, checks ripped.

Majesty, she plum sat up and howled.
No ordinary howl neither.
But a howl the likes of which
you could feel in the belly, shuddering in circles
like a tadpole looking for legs.
Piana started playing: “I’ll Fly Away,”
while everyone stared at the fool dog,
especially poor Preacher

Marsha Mathews teaches writing at Dalton State College in Georgia. She has published poetry in numerous literary magazines, including Appalachian Heritage, Apalachee Quarterly, Greensboro Review, Hampden-Sydney, Kansas Quarterly, Oyez Review, and Pembroke. She advises the campus literary magazine, Tributaries, c/o Patrick Tisdel, Editor, 650 College Drive, Dalton, GA 30720.