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Despite My Efforts Even My Prayers Have Turned into Threats

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Holy father I can’t pretend
I’m not afraid to see you again
but I’ll say that when the time
comes I believe my courage
will expand like a sponge
cowboy in water. My earth-
father was far braver than me — 
coming to America he knew
no English save Rolling Stones
lyrics and how to say thanks
God. Will his goodness roll
over to my tab and if yes, how
soon? I’m sorry for neglecting
your myriad signs, which seem
obvious now as a hawk’s head
on an empty plate. I keep waking
up at the bottom of swimming
pools, the water reflecting
whatever I miss most: whiskey-
glass, pill bottles, my mother’s
oleander, which was sweet
and evergreen but toxic in all
its parts. I know it was silly
to keep what I kept from you;
you’ve always been so charmed
by my weaknesses. I just figured
you were becoming fed up with
all your making, like a virtuoso
trying not to smash apart her
flute onstage. Plus, my sins
were practically devotional:
two peaches stolen from
a bodega, which were so sweet
I savored even the bits I flossed
out my teeth. I know it’s
no excuse, but even thinking
about them now I’m drooling.
Consider the night I spent reading
another man’s lover the Dream
Songs in bed — we made it to
“a green living / drops
limply” before we were
tangled into each other, cat
still sleeping at our feet. Allow
me these treasures, Lord.
Time will break what doesn’t
bend — even time. Even you.

Source: Poetry (November 2016)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Poetry magazine

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Despite My Efforts Even My Prayers Have Turned into Threats

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