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Poet, novelist and biographer Robert Morgan was raised in North Carolina. He has written many intriguing poems that teach his readers about Southern folklore. Here's just one example.

Holy Cussing

When the most intense revivals swept

the mountains just a century ago,

participants described the shouts and barks in unknown tongues, the jerks of those who tried to climb the walls, the holy dance and laugh.

But strangest are reports of what was called the holy cuss. Sometimes a man who spoke in tongues and leapt for joy would break into an avalanche of cursing that would stun with brilliance and duration. Those that heard would say the holy spirit spoke as from a whirlwind. Words burned on the air like chains of dynamite. The listeners felt transfigured, and felt true contact and true presence then, as if the shock of unfamiliar and blasphemous profanity broke through beyond the reach of prayer and song and hallo to answer heaven's anger with its echo.


Reprinted from Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright 2004, by Robert Morgan, whose most recent book is The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 2004.

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