Praying Drunk

By Andrew Hudgins b. 1951 Andrew Hudgins
Our Father who art in heaven, I am drunk.   
Again. Red wine. For which I offer thanks.   
I ought to start with praise, but praise   
comes hard to me. I stutter. Did I tell you   
about the woman whom I taught, in bed,   
this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form   
keeps things in order. I hear from her sometimes.   
Do you? And after love, when I was hungry,   
I said, Make me something to eat. She yelled,   
Poof! You’re a casserole!—and laughed so hard   
she fell out of the bed. Take care of her.

Next, confession—the dreary part. At night   
deer drift from the dark woods and eat my garden.   
They’re like enormous rats on stilts except,   
of course, they’re beautiful. But why? What makes
them beautiful? I haven’t shot one yet.   
I might. When I was twelve, I’d ride my bike   
out to the dump and shoot the rats. It’s hard   
to kill your rats, our Father. You have to use   
a hollow point and hit them solidly.   
A leg is not enough. The rat won’t pause.   
Yeep! Yeep! it screams, and scrabbles, three-legged, back   
into the trash, and I would feel a little bad   
to kill something that wants to live   
more savagely than I do, even if   
it’s just a rat. My garden’s vanishing.   
Perhaps I’ll merely plant more beans, though that   
might mean more beautiful and hungry deer.   
Who knows?
                I’m sorry for the times I’ve driven   
home past a black, enormous, twilight ridge.
Crested with mist, it looked like a giant wave   
about to break and sweep across the valley,   
and in my loneliness and fear I’ve thought,   
O let it come and wash the whole world clean.
Forgive me. This is my favorite sin: despair—
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.

Our Father, thank you for all the birds and trees,   
that nature stuff. I’m grateful for good health,   
food, air, some laughs, and all the other things   
I’m grateful that I’ve never had to do   
without. I have confused myself. I’m glad   
there’s not a rattrap large enough for deer.   
While at the zoo last week, I sat and wept   
when I saw one elephant insert his trunk   
into another’s ass, pull out a lump,   
and whip it back and forth impatiently   
to free the goodies hidden in the lump.   
I could have let it mean most anything,   
but I was stunned again at just how little   
we ask for in our lives. Don’t look! Don’t look!
Two young nuns tried to herd their giggling   
schoolkids away. Line up, they called. Let’s go   
and watch the monkeys in the monkey house.
I laughed, and got a dirty look. Dear Lord,   
we lurch from metaphor to metaphor,   
which is—let it be so—a form of praying.

I’m usually asleep by now—the time   
for supplication. Requests. As if I’d stayed   
up late and called the radio and asked   
they play a sentimental song. Embarrassed.
I want a lot of money and a woman.   
And, also, I want vanishing cream. You know—   
a character like Popeye rubs it on   
and disappears. Although you see right through him,   
he’s there. He chuckles, stumbles into things,   
and smoke that’s clearly visible escapes   
from his invisible pipe. It makes me think,   
sometimes, of you. What makes me think of me   
is the poor jerk who wanders out on air   
and then looks down. Below his feet, he sees   
eternity, and suddenly his shoes   
no longer work on nothingness, and down   
he goes. As I fall past, remember me.

Andrew Hudgins, “Praying Drunk” from The Never-Ending: New Poems. Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Hudgins. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: The Never-Ending (1991)

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Poet Andrew Hudgins b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Religion, Eating & Drinking, Activities, God & the Divine

 Andrew  Hudgins

Biography

Poet Andrew Hudgins was born in Killeen, Texas, in 1951. The eldest son in a military family, Hudgins moved around the American South for much of his childhood, eventually attending Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama. He earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1983. His poetry is known for its dark humor, formal control, and adept handling of voice. Hudgins’s first book, Saints and Strangers (1986), was . . .

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SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Religion, Eating & Drinking, Activities, God & the Divine

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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