Lance Larsen


Lance Larsen is the author of five poetry collections, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018). He’s won a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Sewanee, Ragdale, the Anderson Center, and the NEA. He teaches at BYU, where he serves as department chair and fools around with aphorisms: “A woman needs a man the way a manatee needs a glockenspiel.” In 2017 he completed a five-year appointment as Utah’s poet laureate.


“Everything Is a Prayer to Something”

     — 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.

Many of my poems involve a journey, in this case one that begins in the produce section and ends with a cat lapping blood. What happens along the way? The narrator notices his own noticing, and in the process attempts to make even the most quotidian things sacred.