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Katie Bickham.
“Hymn below Sea Level.”

© Katie Bickham.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

Glory to the Delta, the unraveling

thrown open river,

the godriver

prayed after in dry season, feared in flood.

Glory to sugarcane grown tall,

to high cotton,

to river roads made white.

Glory to rocking chairs rocked

by creaking knees,

to granddaddies,

to their hand tools,

their handkerchiefs,

their shoe polish kits,

their old Bibles and army tattoos,

their cheeks puffed with tobacco.

Glory to the wooden front porch elders,

the sun-fried elders,

the rain-born elders,

the sock-darners,


the story-makers,

the passers-on of all things.

Extol with bent knees the Louisiana lilt,

the Mundy Chusdie Windsdies,

the fixin tos, ya yas, the reckonin?s of long lives.

Glory to grits in the highest,

to cayenne, the beer and the water

that can?t relieve its burn.

Glory to daddies

peeling crawfish for babies,

baiting hooks for daughters,

rubbing dirt on skinned knees,

erecting tree forts in cypress.

Glory to cooks

who learned from their mothers,

the beignets, the boudin,

hushpuppies, okra, sweet tea,

the mayhaws, the bread pudding

with bourbon sauce.

Glory to bourbon.

Praise and glory to the generation

who remembers momma?s lessons

in hemming dresses, making batter,

who forgets momma?s lessons

on colored folks, on house maids,

whose children won?t hear them

from her.

Glory to shame,

to cracked raw remembering,

to mopping and mowing the stage

of our shame.

Glory to hurricanes,

to lives laid level by weather,

to graves above ground,

to the levies and sandbags,

to the folks

who never moved someplace else.

With hearts flattened in reverence,

give honor and glory, most high praise

to jazz.

To jazz played in streets,

to jazz homemade from washtubs,

from spoons, hundred-year-old horns.

Glory be to the blues

from a southern man?s soul.

Glory be to the blues

from a southern man?s soul.

Glory be to the ache

that no songs can console.

Glory to heat,

to sweat,

to linen in breezes,

to molten nights with air you can chew.

Glory to sunburn

salt skin

childhoods in sprinklers, under fans.

Glory to riverboats,

dice rolling, card playing,

to professional sin

straight from the Bible belt.

Glory to simple sin,

to sneaked sips of moonshine,

to feel-ups in hammocks,

to skinnydips in bayous,

to stolen watermelons.

Give all the glory to the sunken place,

the red boiling center,

the street cars,

the way your mouth goes all drowsy,

the slow pace of old lovers dancing,

when you say it out loud.


Text prepared by:


Bickham, Katie. “Hymn below Sea Level.” Deep South Magazine. 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 25 July 2015. <http:// deepsouthmag.com/ 2012/04/ hymn-below-sea-level/>. © Katie Bickham. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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