November 3, 2013

Liz Robbins

DRIVE-IN CHURCH

My mother wakes early every Sunday, pulls on black
hose even in June, and drives forty minutes to put on
a choir robe and sing in a crowd for a crowd. Such is
the nature of her faith. Mine was held for too many
years thrashing under water, burbling, silent-screaming
for air. My faith may be, however, growing toward that
church in Daytona Beach, where you don’t even have to
get out your car and therefore your pajamas, just tool
right up with your ciggies on the dash and a 12-pack
of Krispy Kremes, reggae on the tape deck. Where you
can snooze mid-sermon, curl up with a blanket and
nobody’d see. With only your license plate showing,
you’d still get credit for going. That’s what I mean, it’s all
about the redeemer card for me, where 999 church visits
means a trip to heaven is free. My mother says, It’s not
for God you go, for you. But I’m still that teen in black
eyeliner and dress, scowling in the back pew, stinking
of last night’s beer, wondering what’s in it for me. Which
doesn’t add up, if my mother’s to be believed. Here’s what
I think. One day I’ll die and maybe it’ll be true, my mother
wearing wings, drinking martinis, laughing in the golden
sun beyond a big locked gate, and I’ll be staring in, feeling
sorry and alone, yet knowing I’m exactly where I’m meant
to be. And my mother says, How is that unlike now and
how you’ve felt your whole life? Maybe if you’d go to
church, you’d feel different. And I say, Doesn’t someone
have to be the crazy, the heathen? What if everyone went
to church? She sighs, Oh if I know God, He’d just find
another way to up the ante. To which I think, the next
time I go looking in the paper for drive-in times, it’ll be
to see what film’s playing. But she knows I’m listening.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets

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Liz Robbins (Florida): “One of my earliest and fondest memories—and earliest recording—is of me and my twin sister at age four? five? singing loud and proud as my dad (an organist, choirmaster, and composer) pounded out sea chanties on the piano (‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor?’ was a favorite). Our parents filled our lives with music all the time, from singing hymns in church and letting us take piano lessons, to Cole Porter on the record player and singing with us on bike rides around the Berkshires. My sister and I were influenced early and consistently with the power of language through song—the importance of repetition, rhythm, and rhyme—for which I thank my folks! My sister went on to become a speech pathologist and I became a poetry professor. She and I both help people articulate thoughts through the music of language.”