What You Pray Toward

By Patricia Smith b. 1955 Patricia Smith

“The orgasm has replaced the cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.”
—Malcolm Muggeridge, 1966


Hubbie 1 used to get wholly pissed when I made   
myself come. I’m right here!, he’d sputter, blood   
popping to the surface of his fuzzed cheeks,   
goddamn it, I’m right here! By that time, I was   
in no mood to discuss the myriad merits of my   
pointer, or to jam the brakes on the express train   
slicing through my blood, It was easier to suffer   
the practiced professorial huff, the hissed invectives   
and the cold old shoulder, liver-dotted, quaking   
with rage. Shall we pause to bless professors and   
codgers and their bellowed, unquestioned ownership   
of things? I was sneaking time with my own body.
I know I signed something over, but it wasn’t that.


No matter how I angle this history, it’s weird,
so let’s just say Bringing Up Baby was on the telly   
and suddenly my lips pressing against
the couch cushions felt spectacular and I thought   
wow this is strange, what the hell, I’m 30 years old,   
am I dying down there is this the feel, does the cunt   
go to heaven first, ooh, snapped river, ooh shimmy   
I had never had it never knew, oh i clamored and   
lurched beneath my little succession of boys I cried   
writhed hissed, ooh wee, suffered their flat lapping
and machine-gun diddling their insistent c’mon girl   
c’mon until I memorized the blueprint for drawing   
blood from their shoulders, until there was nothing   
left but the self-satisfied liquidy snore of he who has   
rocked she, he who has made she weep with script.   
But this, oh Cary, gee Katherine, hallelujah Baby,
the fur do fly, all gush and kaboom on the wind.


Don’t hate me because I am multiple, hurtling.
As long as there is still skin on the pad of my finger,   
as long as I’m awake, as long as my (new) husband’s   
mouth holds out, I am the spinner, the unbridled,   
the bellowing freak. When I have emptied him,
he leans back, coos, edges me along, keeps wondering   
count. He falls to his knees in front of it, marvels   
at my yelps and carousing spine, stares unflinching   
as I bleed spittle unto the pillows.
He has married a witness.
My body bucks, slave to its selfish engine,
and love is the dim miracle of these little deaths,   
fracturing, speeding for the surface.


We know the record. As it taunts us, we have giggled,   
considered stopwatches, little laboratories. Somewhere   
beneath the suffering clean, swathed in eyes and silver,   
she came 134 times in one hour. I imagine wires holding   
her tight, her throat a rattling window. Searching scrubbed   
places for her name, I find only reams of numbers. I ask   
the quietest of them:


Are we God?

“What You Pray Toward,” by Patricia Smith, from Teahouse of the Almighty, © 2006 by Patricia Smith. Used with permission from Coffee House Press. www.coffeehousepress.org.

Source: Teahouse of the Almighty (Coffee House Press, 2006)

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Poet Patricia Smith b. 1955

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Relationships, Love, The Body, Desire

Holidays Valentine's Day

 Patricia  Smith


Patricia Smith has been called “a testament to the power of words to change lives.” She is the author of six books of poetry, including Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (2012), which won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler (2008), a chronicle of the human and environmental cost of Hurricane Katrina which was nominated for a National Book Award; and Teahouse of the Almighty, a 2005 National . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Relationships, Love, The Body, Desire

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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