Speaking in Tongues, story by Joseph Amendolare at Spillwords.com
Daniel Lincoln

Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues

written by: Joseph Amendolare


In a broken place, amongst melting asphalt and splinters of broken glass, the cast-iron holiness of truck’s axles and staccato ring of pistol shots.

I never knew her name.
I can no longer state what she looked like.

There were block captains, unofficial residents who existed to keep the peace and change your mind, gambling on the side their Section 8 checks at the local Cee-lo game.

In the heat of August towards the end of what had been a very long day, I was stopped on the pavement outside a two- or three-story home. Looking thru the mailbag, asking: did I have anything for this address.

Thru the door at the top of a tall stoop, she came down the steps with a cool drink on the hottest of hot summer days; she handed it to me.

Yes, I never knew her name. I can no longer tell you what she looked like; beyond that she was elderly and thin; and black.

The healer.
She healed.

Her eyes searched me, seeing all that would happen.
Then she blessed me there on the sidewalk.

She blessed not by the skinned husk of a broken heart but in the distilled language of ancient tongues. A cool balm of carmelized nard emerged from her lips; prayers not of folded hands nor the gentle touch of slender fingers nor gauze to allay the flow of blood but with the steady rhythmic tick of hissing snakes and the purest of sterile expressions.

Paul with his brethren at the Areopagus or those gathered at the learning center of Tyrannus could not have prayed in this manner, although surely some must have. Fewer still could interpret.

Reaching my tired soul, eliminating generations of loneliness, mourning and the brightest of sorrows; it invoked the quietude of sacrist and the Shepherd of Hermas; it wiped away tears, invalidated insults, ushered away threats, violence, rejection; it banished iniquity, put out legions of false brethren, filtered the canted words of ageless conciliatory scribes and steadied the metal staffs of vergers.

In the years since, I have served in the armed forces, land and sea; spent the overnight in airports, bus shelters nothing more than a plexiglass enclosure to barely keep out the wind and rain. I have traveled the subway all night, not caring where it took me or how dangerous it might be. Into Queens, Brooklyn, back into Manhattan. Taking the ferry multiple times across the harbor until someone noticed and ordered me off. Slept on a bench near Whitehall Street.

Yes; I never knew her name.

What I wanted to say, is may the Lord bless the memory of her kindness.

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