Down South Deliverance

A child recounts her experience witnessing her family perform routine religious exorcisms, and how it has shaped her own beliefs.

down south deliverance

By Sydney James

First Date — 1910

My mama used ta bring ’em in,
run ’em to the basement,
real quick so Daddy Foster didn’t see.
She’d fit ’em snug in that ole’ chair
with their shoulders up an’ ropes tied strict like a
barb’ wire fence that only lets love through.

After the room was soakin’ in prayer,
a Holy Ghost had answered His invitation,
she’d begin
Outta breath, Uncle Trev would turn up
Kids left at home with Auntie Rose.

Those two knew just what to do
in this strange delivery room,
but helpless at the hospital.
For Cuz’ Constance, it was as
smooth as Gramma’s hand-kneaded butta’ rolls.

Uncle Trev told her,
“Don’t be alarmed if I seem a little feisty, it’s
not you I’m chattin’ with, it’s that demon.”
Poor sucker wouldn’t stand a chance.

This is about tha time I’d close my eyes and
wanna inch away, but I never did.
No fear in perfect love, heard that?

Mama’d look ’em in the eyes while they were
fully human, remind ’em who they are:
worthy, loved, cherished, God’s image-beared.

Her marred hands engulfed Constance’s,
like God’s grasp of this green Earth.
Then they’d call the Devil in ‘ha up:
the Tormentor,
the Evil One,
the Jealous One,
the Ancient Attack,
Saint of the Smokestack.
Mama tol’ me one time
“Satan smells like sweaty body odor,
masked by garlic-onion-juice

Lucifer would turn Constance’s
mossy eyes, dead black:
blacker than that eight ball Uncle Frank
lost his bills over Friday nights.

He’d convince ‘ha of beautiful darkness:
but hatred’s necklace strangled ‘ha,
malice’s tongue suffocated ‘ha,
and envy’s etch touched a vein.
Death’s pursuit was mad ‘n’ unrestrained.

In that low-lit room,
windowless room,
scream-proof room,
I saw the Devil himself leave Constance.
Uncle Trev told that Bein’ it had to leave in the
name of Jesus.

It did just that.

Yep.. that was Tuesday in Mama’s
house growin’ up.
How ’bout yo’self?

Sydney James graduated from UNC in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in English and comparative literature, and advertising and public relations. She is from Stokesdale, NC.