Not the Words Grandma worshipped the god of hurricanes who molded the world from a man made of clay, and filled the house she lived in with his kudzu vines, his sickly sweet honeysuckle sweat, his dim shadows trapped in jars of wet marbles lining her bathroom sills. He lay down next to her on Sunday afternoons in the bed where her husband died, his hot New Orleans breath thick on her neck, her white skin, and shuddering up from her lungs in choked dreams. Before bed, she put us on our knees in the room where our father and his brothers lay awake for years, waiting, plotting their chance to escape. "Now I lay me down to sleep," she taught us, "I pray the Lord my soul to keep." We clasped our small hands tight on the knobby bedspread, bones grinding the wood floor. "If I should die before I wake," we said, "I pray the Lord my soul to take." I prefer the god of hawks, who waits on the wire along the highway, glass eyes on frozen grass, alive to the swish and sigh of my tires, the flash of metal I make as I speed past under December sun. When I die, I hope my soul flies with him into his wild sky, clouds and wind and snow, free leaves, ruffled feathers, cold joy.
Suggested soundtrack: The Pretenders, “Brass in Pocket.”