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What I Eat is a Prayer

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Then in the August of my twenty-seventh year,
naked except for my seaclogs,
I greeted an audience of piers.

After my dip, I came up covered
in salt and sand: hair tough as an angel’s.
Who could disappoint me now among the so-coifed?

Disappointing menus for a banquet of twenty-seven.
The hostess cannot hear the hotelier, walls blow ope’;
lousy with wallets and checkbooks, the air. Naked except for

The checks and the monies flapped like birds.
I partook of the seasonal activity
and caught a check in my hands—to myself from myself—

and was caught; I was smart and dumb.
I hadn’t been clobbered in such a long time!
Now, shoved against the carpeted headrest,

I wondered at its cold and slender neck.

The nakeder I feel the happier.

Camp is over, and the children come out
wearing hats; the children are happy for each other,
each camp having been maximally appropriate.

The ocean grew gritty with proteins. I arose
and clomb to the yard with its spigot.
It looked up and blinked. Above, kite strings wrote

toing and froing was the same motion; tiny sighs above the halls
at the county airport; swung on tiny chains;
my father swathed me in two handtowels,

said nexttime, swim in the sea.

A gold thread falls from an eagle’s towel
onto the beach. A gold face big as a quarter of the sky
looks at us with gold-milk tears in its eyes

and the gold girl goes on brushing the countryside
with a twig-broom big as a tree. When our competitor
finishes third, he approaches the throne

with a gold wheel of tillamook.

Joyelle McSweeney, “What I Eat is a Prayer” from The Commandrine and Other Poems. Copyright © 2004 by Joyelle McSweeney. Reprinted by permission of Joyelle McSweeney.
Source: The Commandrine and Other Poems (Fence Books, 2004)
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What I Eat is a Prayer

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