Lament for the Last Summer of Prayer

Posted on 03 November 2009

Not yet seven, I still believed I could talk to God
the way my mother spoke on the phone,
head bent to the side, her whole body curved,
when she cradled the receiver. For weeks,
she dodged my father’s out-of-work pacing,
her fingers twirled the telephone cord, strangling
the hot kitchen air tight. I never knew
who she was talking to, just heard words,
money, makeup, loud muffler, every m
a low murmur, lost between her lips.
I avoided her smile that failed to curve
at the corners and hid underneath
the back porch to watch summer break
through the toothed leaves of dandelions.
My sister flicked cigarette sparks and specks
of red nail polish from the tips of her toes.
My brother worked construction, peeled his boots
off his tired feet. Hard bits of tar worked loose
from the heels, rained down a summer hailstorm.
Flat on my back I watched the back of the stairs sag,
the wooden knots squeeze tight with each step.
I’m sorry, I whispered. I wasn’t sure what for.
I dug my hands into the ground, hoping the palms
of my hands would form a prayer, surprised
when I found blood seeping through my nails.

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