Prayer Written on a Wide Veranda on a Comfortable Couch in Sewanee, TN
If prayer requires an audience that is divine
and invisible, it is true that I don’t pray. Better to say
I attempt to envision and hope to enact and perhaps
there is a German word for that,
one that sounds a little like a sneeze
and a little like a birthday-candle-wish.
Maybe what I mean is that I yearn or aspire
wishfully, wistfully, from anywhere I am perched,
which happens just now to be amid a cloud
of French-fry-scented air in which a couple of butterflies
are spiraling and nearly settling on the rim of my tea cup
so that I fear I will sip them and so ruin their delicate wings.
I never wished to be a butterfly, exactly,
though something winged and barely-bodied might suit me,
suit how I am always floating loose from the weight and heartfeel
of my earthbound and bleeding form.
I have wished to leave my body entirely, like a cicada husk, whole,
translucent, empty and tenacious, clinging to some door’s rusting screen
while another part of me got on with things elsewhere.
Other times I have imagined a substance, molten and seeping lava-like
into all the chambers in the building of my body,
hardening to passageways I could then move through,
learn to slip the stubborn locks, discover
the short cuts and servants’ staircases
and the colored glass windows hidden high in the tops of closets,
windows that flood with unexpected light so plush and dazzling
even the dust motes shine like ice crystals. How it would be
to feel myself a palace.
And I have wanted to be a tree, of course.
But I am a clumsy giant, always catching up gravel in my sandals,
uprooting tender stalks as I pass. Yesterday
a baby bird lay smeared and spreading into the dirt where I walked,
the ants already taking
the little body into the ground.
I am unprepared for the death of anybody.
My father says he is ready and unafraid; he wants to eat the world
and hold it in his pockets, has tried to memorize
its topography, its history and regional trivia, the equations
which attempt to explain its curvatures and potencies.
He collects what he can
even while giving away what he is no longer able to hold.
My mother is dropping the world like a trail of crumbs behind her. They disappear
before she can turn to look. There is no way back
and no view forward. She doesn’t know she was ever carrying
anything. I know I can’t control what matters
or most of what doesn’t. I love the night moths
and the climbing vines. I even love a little the nest of yellow-jackets
waiting for the errant foot, the unseen dead thing betraying its last hiding
with stink, the lone leaf spinning and spinning where it has been caught
in a cobweb on a bicycle pedal. Insects rise up humming
from the grass where I step. I wish to be a hermit crab,
naked and rattling inside the beautiful shell of this world.