You have given me to pray

You have given me to pray

and it’s like a slow tornado.

I’m sucked up in circles

and at the top am in the sun

and I say,

“Take me! Take me!”

But no, now I know

it’s not a prayer.

It’s a poem and me

fleeing again. I see

the people I love

and so slide down to them

through the last of the poem,

that old fire escape we had at school.

A heart for the game*

Let’s not tell a boy now

he can’t play ball.

Not at twelve, or ever,

not when he loves it as he does.

Don’t spring on him a tricky valve,

slamming shut his play

today and plan for tomorrow.

Don’t take his heart, Lord,

when his heart is for the game.

*For Bas, who got some bad news.

Praying for Barkley

This all goes back to that blank book

I had in the seminary. It was for sketches

and quotes, and the names of flowers

and trees. I kept a list in it, too,

of all the people I’d be praying for.


There were no dogs on the list then,

though I did see how one thing

led to another. I’d call up some face

and another would appear – and hey,

who doesn’t deserve a prayer? – so

I’d put ‘em on the list. That’s when I started

falling asleep, halfway, before I was done.


Which brings us to Barkley.

I don’t even know the dog.  And there are

others like him – not mine and many

long dead – your Gabbies and Falcons,

your Bimases and Kings of this world.


And once your dogs are in, the cats come running,

whining and getting their backs up

when you don’t cooperate. I’d say keep it

to my own kind (what’s next, snails? minerals?),

but the way the babies keep coming,

and the new partners – the jilteds and the

Jolies – and with my cousin doing genealogical

research, finding family I never knew even about,

well, what’s the point?


I may never stop falling asleep.