Fall 2019

Tongues of Men and Angels

By Janice Northerns

Daddy prayed for rain and the world’s end,
but on the back pew of a white-washed
cinderblock church, I begged only to lose
my virginity before the Second Coming.

Though I’d been told I was the Bride of Christ,
it seemed a sin to rise to heaven at trumpet’s
last call, leaving all those beautiful boys:
the high school principal’s son

who’d kissed me behind the door
of his dad’s office; our preacher’s
teenaged offspring, his hard-muscled
arm now slung across the pew back

before me, inviting my touch; the young
traveling evangelist who last summer
laid hands on me, casting out the demon
of lust. How to confess I did not want it gone?

I suffered through Sunday night altar calls,
endless choruses pumped on the organ
as the minister pleaded with us to come to Jesus:
“All ye that are heavy laden, come!”

Oh, how I wanted to come,
but not to Jesus, and certainly not
as he peered down from above,
like some omnipotent Peeping Tom.

Each night I prayed, but not for tongues
of angels to set my soul afire. No, I longed
only for a slightly better acquaintance
with the tongues of men.


A native Texan, Janice Northerns now lives in southwest Kansas with her husband and two dogs. Her poems have appeared in The Laurel Review, Chariton Review, Roanoke Review, Southwestern American Literature, descant, Cold Mountain Review, and elsewhere. Her awards include a writing residency from Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, a Tennessee Williams scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, second place in Southwest Review’s 2017 Marr Poetry Contest, and the Robert S. Newton Creative Writing Award from Texas Tech University. 

Fall 2019