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.”

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