Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

The Great Disappointment

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

The Great Disappointment

Article excerpt

Rev. William Miller predicted the Rapture in 1843 using a system he devised of calculating days from the Bible. Thousands were convinced two separate times that the day would come. When each passed, they and Miller became the subject of public ridicule. It came to be known as "the great disappointment."

A girl from out West packed a trunk

full of silk chintz dresses

petticoats calfskin boots

wound it with leather straps

and sat upon it

like a soldier

and waited for the Rapture

like waiting to be asked

to dance

Wouldn't you wish to bring with you

the things that make you love yourself

What a simple thing

to mistake day to mean year

As a child conflates on / off light / dark

knowing only that both

are matters of degree

Miller gathered thousands

swaddled in white Ascension Robes

and instructed them to curl inside

their metal washtubs

up on the hill

under the white circle of tents

chests full of anticipation

a steady flood of saliva

as when

after having been starved

one will be shortly presented with meat

Miller wrote

The right equation will come from the clouds of heaven

The numbers possess us The body of every departed

numeral will be raised and destroy wicked error

As ever

homecomings are unsure

and heavy

Let the correct sum of the earth meet us

as equations in the air

[Author Affiliation]

ALISON POWELL's first book of poems, On the Desire to Levitate, was awarded the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and published by Ohio University Press in March 2014. …

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