clouds in a grey sky with a jet contrail

Every Prayer Begins with an Apology

My wife doesn’t wake from sleep over her own dying—a lifetime of God
and combat. Brother after brother turned to the bottle.

If only blackbirds knew they were dying—blackbirds have so much
to say. Everyone before me has somehow managed to age.

Every prayer must begin with silence. I’ve given up.
My daughter calls her therapist her listening friend.

This is Missouri—but therapy is only fashionable among coastal
five year-olds. Each week in the waiting room, our wounds are the most
covered. Our clothes the most crisply washed.

I’ve wasted so much time. Her listening friend tries to unwrap the skin
slowly scarring—the mother who left and still won’t choose her. A child’s wounds
are written in a silent language you carry in your eyes and mouth.

You know how some things only happen to other people? Like the silence
of birth or orgasms? This language is that.

Every prayer must begin. At 24, I swallowed three bottles of pills, woke up
on my bedroom floor a day later. I never told anyone. This language is like that.

The sound I carry in my teeth was born in me: I’ve eaten it
and I’ve found it as if it waited for me.

A stranger tries to explain God’s love in the grocery store. This is Missouri.
She says God loves me how I love my children only more.

I’d like to tell the stranger about language, about a child screaming
when a mother doesn’t come on visit day, how silence can scratch like nails on wet skin.

All my prayers are heavy with blackbirds—