Group Meditation, Camp Bratton-Green, 1978

The camp counselor’s voice
was sun-shot molasses—invite
the light
, she said, so I let it
ebb up my knuckles and elbows
until warmth washed over
my entire torso like sunset
on a pocked brick wall, and I
became that light—sort of—face up
and afloat on the chapel floor.
Gong rung, I was the last
camper to slowly—mindfully—
open my eyes in the supine
position of renewed awareness,
surprised to find the others
tittering, gawking in my
direction. Clearly, my sweatpants
had tent-poled, campsite
of my own unplanned erection.
Could it be that my ego
had departed through my penis?
My pecker rigid with my
spirit’s activation? And where
were you, O Angel of Tumescence,
in my red-faced hour? Why
not appear in the rafters
and proclaim readiness
the greatest virtue, or at least
trumpet the relative
innocence of certain pubescent
reactions? Thereafter, I
was dubbed “Hard-on Boy.”
But the real growth came
after the ribbing:  I started
not to care. What could I say?
Sometimes a kid relaxes.

James Kimbrell was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1967. He has published three volumes of poetry: Smote (2015), My Psychic (2006), and The Gatehouse Heaven (1998), and was co-translator of Three Poets of Modern Korea: Yi Sang, Hahm Dong-Seon, and Choi Young-Mi (2002), all with Sarabande Books. His work has appeared in magazines such as Poetry, Ploughshares, Field, and Best American Poetry, 2012. He has been the recipient of the Discovery / The Nation Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Tallahassee where he is a professor in the creative writing program at Florida State University.