by Tawnysha Greene

The first time Momma shows me

a demon is during revival week

at church.  Pastor lines us all

in front of the altar, slaps his hands

on our foreheads, makes us fall

back in Jesus' name.


Ushers cover Momma's legs with blue

sheets as she weeps on the floor, speaks

in tongues, like the people before us do.

The piano man plays, sings the same

song as more fall under Pastor's hand.

Momma wakes, says, the Holy Spirit is here.


The song is long and, me, sister fall

asleep on the seats.  Momma stands, hands

outstretched to the altar, to those who cry,

dance when Pastor talks in God's language.

The song lasts until morning and Momma

wakes me up, tells me, sister to follow.


She takes us past the praying bodies on the floor,

blue sheets in a heap, shows us a lady who does not

fall under Pastor, does not pray in his language.

Pastor motions for the ushers to come, to lay

hands on her, too.  Momma says, she doesn't have

the Holy Spirit, the spirit in her is bad, full of demons.


The lady is on the floor now, ushers, Pastor

on top of her.  They push her head back,

pin arms to the floor.  Be delivered in Jesus'

name.  I cast you out, they say.  She says nothing.

Shoka loma lameh moda kadem simoda hada,

they say.  They are praying in the Spirit, says Momma.


For two years, Momma doesn't show me anymore

demons, not until two ladies move in across our street.

Momma spies on them through the window as they water

their lawn, check mail, walk their dogs.  They're bad women,

says Momma.  Women like them have demons, she says,

to make them like that.  They are unclean, not like God. 


For a long time, I do not understand what she means,

only that she would point them out when we go

to the grocery store, to the movies, them together,

whisper, demon, and say the same words Pastor said

during revival.  Soka loma lameh moda kadem simoda hada

and I would see the demon lady from revival when I saw


the two ladies from across the street.  Soka loma lameh,

on the floor, limbs twisted, moda kadem simoda hada,

eyes rolled back, soka loma kameh hada, mouth open wide.