Slash Prayer Poems

This sequence appeared in Transistor Rodeo. One of the poems (10:25 pm) was first published in the Colorado Review, and one (1:17 am) was first published in Denver Quarterly.


7:34 am, styrofoam cup, metal table / Prayer

Still too early
for beautiful
people.  Just
the dust
mask / leaf
blower who
may / may not
regret former
truancies and that scar.

8:15 his bricks
will ring under
tall heels / gold
watch // squash
goggles and a short
gray skirt.  It’s tan,
hairy arms and I
smell like a memo.


Lord, bury me in a briefcase
along the Rio Grande.
Don’t carry me to Heaven;
leave my body in the sand.

As buoyant as the Dead Sea,
compliant as a hooker;
Lord, make me hot as coffee,
and I’ll melt this world like sugar.


12:42 pm, linen flower, glare off tinted glass / Prayer

River rock
in asphalt / gravel
under mislaid
feet / sneakered,
dusty, I
grow afraid
of unfiltered

Son of the ironmonger!
Son of the butcher, the cobbler:
Why do you probe this soil
like a root for Atlantis?
Son of the mason,
how have you been worn
so smooth, ignorable as
the love of a good woman?

Thank you, God, for momentary light,
this bursting like a pin cushion, you
who see the irony in phrases like
“the paucity of language,” in whom dew

gathers like courage –– I can only hover
round these corners like the little girl
who wonders how the sun could be her lover,
who cries out, I am lonely in this world.



3:19 pm, white plaster, white light / Prayer

I have driven all across
this country like Pilate, eating
drive-thru burgers in wonder
at the money and Styro-foam.

I still remember her face, all smooth
and pointy at the same time
like broken plastic or the gentle
thudding of distant

motorcycles: sacks
of sugar dropped
on a counter overlooking
a beautiful America.


When the men who know God memorize
the angle of ascent of a satellite, Lord

spare me the obscure
immortality of freeze-dried meat;

gather me around your heart like fat,
or let time sweep over me unnoticed,

like a summer evening when you are precisely in love
and happiness keeps failing to gnaw at your mind.



4:52 pm, asphalt siding, asphalt pavement / Prayer

It is sometimes enough to walk.
And even in this city, where
there is no horizon, it can be
enough.  Make believe

you are a vicar, and six
days a week need only
wander through ferns, cataloging
the local species of frogs.

Some days you will be drawn blindly
into the forest as if following a young
girl’s smile, wander among branches
afire with springtime spotlights

guiding pollen-heavy Zeppelins
towards tiny landing pads, return
hours later, the girl lost, scattered
like a school of fish, and collapse

exhausted and secure in your knowledge
that the world is a place of great
beauty and injustice –

Alas for you, O land,
when your king is a philosopher,
and your children come home dressed in the alphabet.

Alas for you, O land,
when your clerics are accountants,
and your women no longer walk bare-armed through the marketplace.

Alas for you, O land,
when you are trampled into vinegar
under the shackled feet of your princes and their bull-fighters.

Happy for you, O land,
when the ocean rises like sin,
and fills your files and sorted lists,
and the ocean full of water,
and the water full of atoms,
and every atom with a name like a god.


10:25 pm, wicker basket, mechanical pencil / Prayer

Behind this door you will find
the most princely of peaches.
Childlike in its sincerity, it stands
tall, like a stripe on Flag Day.

If you were crossing the highway this peach
would run you down like a nun.  This peach
is a bullet in a hurricane hopped up on rocket fuel.
Run, little man.  Try to hide from this peach.

This peach lives for the feel of the wind
in its hair and can’t wait for cider season.
This peach should have a corner office.
You’d be lucky to be this peach, little man.

You were wrong about me, God.
You were wrong about the pieces in my brain,
how you thought your pornography could distract me.

You may be angry, God, but you are far away.
And I am naked and luscious like the moon,
and so full of acts that none of them may ever escape.

Now grant me powers to see beyond
my keys and that horizon.  Grant me that,
and I will promise you anything.



1:17 am, steel can, book jacket / Prayer

It is late and hard
to tell – they tell me
you are sleeping.  Spring
this year has come
in spurts like a child
looking for her shoes.
Years away I will remember
this night as one when
nothing happened at all.

Someone driving up the street
has ruffled a gang of birds,
who now squabble amongst
themselves, assigning blame.
Years away you too
will sweat like a piranha
in heat, immersed
in hormones and a culture
I can no longer understand.


Let there be sun in the desert,
and sand in the desert,
and three small clouds in the desert.

Let there be a fire in the desert,
and a battle for the fate of nations in the desert,
and justice, fear, and honor in the desert.

And the hope that burdens future generations,
let that lie forever in the desert as well,
and water all around your feet, standing
water all around your feet.

Science, Poetry, and Current Events, where "Current" and "Events" are Broadly Construed