© 2008 Katherine Williams
"Crossing" appears in
Seeking: Poets Respond to Jonathan Green. Univ. of South Carolina Press (2013), Ed. Kwame Dawes and Marjory Wentworth

“Seeking” is the Gullah practice of sending youngsters out into the wilderness to meet God in a vision before they can be baptized.
I begin by stripping my life of comforts. One cotton shift,
no shoes. Sleep on the dirt floor, eat black bread and water.

Sunrise I go to the clearing to focus on prayer.
A knotted cord around my head to signify.

Chores yes, but no break from praying. I do what Ma says
and come straight back. My cord tells them No talking to this one.

Alone in the wild with the Spirit and the Book. I dream
images of God and the ones who lead me toward Him.

My bare feet, my cotton shift, my bread. I find a rough pine-
branch to talk to. My echoes singing the book, the light.

My guide, Be revealed to me. I am alone but not alone.
See me along my journey. See into my dreams.

My child, do you not river with? So firey and waving, so time.
Where we envoy some people, how seven-thing.

So speaks my guide, and I understand.
Heron track, still buck speak too. Rough stick, black water.

I do not cross until I have my name. When the bright image.
Who will know me when I have been given the dream?

I was a girl. I am not a girl. I do not know what I am.
I go into the river. The song, the book, the light.