Holy Cussing

By Robert Morgan Robert Morgan
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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Poet Robert Morgan

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects History & Politics, Religion, War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Robert  Morgan


Robert Morgan grew up in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina at both Chapel Hill and Greensboro, where he studied with the poet Fred Chappell. After working as a salesman, house-painter, and farmer, he joined the faculty of Cornell University where he teaches English and creative writing.

Although some consider Morgan an Appalachian regional writer (a title he . . .

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SUBJECT History & Politics, Religion, War & Conflict, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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