Sometimes your prayer weighs as much as a dump truck
filled with all the lost things
you dredged from the place you are trying to rebuild a home.
Sometimes it weighs as much as an ember at the center of the pit,
mostly ash but still burning.
Sometimes your prayer presses against your throat
you don’t know if you’re supposed to spit it out or swallow.
Sometimes your prayer hides inside the lines of your shadow.
You give your prayer breath and it blows the candle out
without listening for your wish.
So you give your prayer the sea
and it kicks up sand and drags you into the surf,
salt stinging the open places.
So you give your prayer a bath and it uses up your best bubble stuff
and leaves the tap running
and all the towels in wads on the floor.
and a ring on the tub.
So you give your prayer a lullaby.
It croons over you, makes a joke of the lyrics, breaks into a power ballad.
Whitesnake and Axl Rose and 17,000 bic lighters all raised for someone else’s song.
Just when you’ve decided it’s more trouble than it’s worth
your prayer kisses your cheeks, each one twice,
and looks at you with utter guileless love.
Your prayer whispers something in a voice you recognize but can’t quite place.
That you don’t want to place. Because what would it mean for you trust a voice
that says, “Sugar, you are a blessing”?
You try on your prayer remembering how it used to fit.
The way it gapped open under the arms and held you too snug around the hips.
You try on your prayer and the elastic is rotting.
You try on your prayer it bunches under the arms now. It falls too loose at the waist.
You could stitch its seams into the shape of you
if only you had learned to thread the needle.
You put it back on the hanger and tuck it behind the winter coats.
You don’t give your prayer a name.
It came with one, you’re sure of it but all you can call up
are the moons of Jupiter.
Tropical flowers. Shades of blue.
Your prayer has repeated the pronunciation of its name so many times,
you couldn’t possibly ask it again.
So you smile at your prayer and keep a safe distance.
You can’t really trust it, after all,
your prayer slept through the worst of it.
How else to explain your bruised ribs, the scars mapping your skin?
You don’t remember seeing it there when the roof fell in.
It was not among the EMTs or Red Cross volunteers,
all of whom arrived too late anyway.
When your prayer limps its way back
you offer no mercy.
But your prayer recalls the moment of implosion
from an angle no one else could have witnessed.
From 30,000 feet and also from right there at the impact zone.
Somehow your prayer remembers more than you do
and paws at the ground to reveal what grows up through the debris,
what’s hatching beneath the scorched acre where your old truth
Your prayer shadowed you even though your back was turned
and it took a good portion of the blow.
You begin to grasp that you are still standing because
your prayer weighs as much as a dump truck
parked at the entrance of your ravaged heart.
Because your prayer weighs as much as all the dark and light
that make a shadow possible.
Your prayer curls up at your feet now.
Soon, it will need water, a walk, your hand.
Yes, your hand, the one that has fallen short
so many times, withholding what would have been so easy to give.
Your prayer still wants to feel that imperfect stroke.
And although you’ve forgotten
your prayer’s true name,
it will respond to any you use.
The shift is all it seeks:
you turning towards it, that subtle rearrangement of molecules
stirring in and around you
right before you find your voice to call.
Image by Nicholas Souroujon on Burst