The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Melanie Henderson

Pistol in the Pulpit


It took me a full 33,

           the Jesus year,

to learn I was deadly.





Range 13.

A Mother's Day gift.

Groupon special.


No love for the weapon,

& a palpable fear of its potential to ruin,

    I loaded, cocked, emptied it over and over

until my fear was equal to my confidence;

the paper aggressors would not survive

their bloodless wounds.





Hopeful for warm seasons

filled with buoyant vert trees,

my babies can laugh, collect shade

and blinks of sun— no strangeness,

no unnatural fruit.





I would protect my congregation

       of two, if one dared stain my glass windows

with slaughter or plunder.


    I’d feel for the weight of metallic fire

as my arm rose, lifted like the glory pitch

   of a valiant             "Amen!"

           smite a loveless intention

to break the sanctity of service,

wholeness in this house.



I know the goodness of people.        Still,

some spirits are as smelly as ear folds,
their eyes, vacant with orders they cannot protest,
or filled with nothing good.



Yes, I'd give you pass into this house
for the sake of your soul,
grant you the discomfort
of a pew and blessed song.

There is a pistol in my pulpit,
one hand holding all the love
           it can bear,
                        the other—

holding a cocked vow to preserve it.




MELANIE HENDERSON, Washington, DC native poet, editor, photographer and publisher, is the author of Elegies for New York Avenue, winner of the 2011 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. An alumnus of Howard and Trinity Universities, she studied poetry at Howard University in Dr. Tony Medina’s “Boot Camp” and at the Voices Summer Writing Workshops (VONA) in San Francisco, CA prior to earning an MFA from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Her poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Drumvoices Revue, jubilat, Torch, Tuesday; An Art Project, Valley Voices, and The Washington Informer among others. She is a recipient of the 2009 Larry Neal Writers Award and received a 2013 Pushcart Prize nomination from Iris G. Press. She is a Founding Editor of Tidal Basin Review. Learn more



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