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LEARNING HOW TO PRAY

by Cathy Smith Bowers


Also by Cathy Smith Bowers:
"The Entry" (1995)


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When I heard my brother
was dying     youngest
of the six of us     our
lovely boy     I who in matters
of the spirit
had been always suspect
who even as a child
snubbed Mama's
mealtime ritual
began finally to
pray     and fearing
I would offend
or miss completely
the rightful target of my pleas
went knocking everywhere
the Buddha's huge
and starry churning     Shiva
Vishnu     Isis     the worn
and ragged god of Ishmael
I bowed to the Druid reverence
of trees     to water     fire
and wind     prayed to weather
to carbon     that sole link
to all things
this and other worldly
our carbon who art in heaven
prayed to rake and plow
the sweet acid stench of dung
to fly     to the fly's soiled
wing     and to the soil

I could not stop
myself     I like a nymphomaniac
the dark promiscuity
of my spirit     there
for the taking     whore
of my breaking heart     willing
to lie down     with anything.



Cathy Smith Bowers is the author of The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas (1992).
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; June 1997; Learning How to Pray; Volume 279, No. 6; page 98.

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