Surrender (with raised hands)

Marlin M. Jenkins

Before we learned this position

for its relevance when faced with a gun

you could find my people

packed in a sweaty sanctuary —

arms raised, wailing,

asking God to speak and He spoke,

as much as any word is an approximation,

a translation, a mother’s ecstatic dance

until she falls limp to the floor, slain

in the spirit, as we called it, and the ushers

cover her with a sheet to protect her

modesty, not unlike a sheet used to cover

the bodies of sons, before sent

to coroner, after a Sunday morning

singing whose report will you believe?

I raised my hands and felt

a spirit open, tremor like my bones

were sliding past each other,

causing a shaking rift

like the lonely chasm between

Heaven and a cursed Earth.

I was young. This was before

the videos: man shot

while lying on the ground, man shot

calmly in his car, man shot

and/or tackled and/or pinned and/or thrown

and/or choked — meanwhile a mother gasping

between cries out to her Lord

to save us all.

Young, I tried not to resist God’s

overwhelming presence, but this was before

the video of the dead man

being dragged by police,

his literal dead weight not enough

to not be told stop resisting.

This was before I walked into a service

in a church basement and a pastor

took me by the shoulders, shook me

and shouted how I needed to be radical for God.

I need no more convincing that death

in itself is a resistant, radical act.

Surely, Jesus taught us that.

Surely, surrender is not defeat,

but acceptance, is saying

take what you will take

of my body, O you whose smiting

I have been witness to —

I have seen what your hands

can do and so I offer you my own.


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