— overheard in the produce section at Kroger’s
Pears are a prayer to smooth, parsley a prayer
to leafy doubt, kiwis a prayer to what fits in the fist,
a bristliness almost marsupial. Driving home
is a prayer to stop sign and crosswalk with the sun
streaming in on the sly like a third-grader telling
a first-grader how adults commit parenthood.
The sheets flapping on the line are a prayer
to wind, lemonade stands a prayer to summer
and sticky quarters, baby teeth a prayer to white.
My mother saved my teeth in a Sucrets tin, and at night
I’d shake them under the blanket, a prayer to morning,
may it come quickly, a rattling like muffled rain.
And why not let it rain in a grapefruit orchard
in late August outside Ventura? We picked
and picked and afterwards in the kitchen
my mother performed her alchemy.
One moment she cradled a grapefruit as big
as a softball. The next she held a dripping pink
globe in her left hand, and from her right hung
a sliced peel, all in one piece, like a skinned
rattlesnake, which she nibbled at, each scrape
of her teeth a prayer to thrift, a prayer to scrimp
and stave off and thank you and the Great
Depression, which she was a helpless child of.
She washed dishes the same way, we all did,
no dishwasher in our house, each swipe
of the washrag was Dear Lord, each clean
glass hallelujah—until I reached into the dirty suds
for a saucer one night and grabbed a butcher knife
instead. Is this how it’s done, Lord? Is this how
you slice us open for our own good?
What gushed forth was a prayer to this life
not the next, what dripped across the floor were
little prayers to what comes next, a dot-to-dot
from kitchen to bathroom, which the cat lapped
up, then sat on her haunches, asking for more.