What is prayer
but breath
at the back of a corpse,
playing in its hair,
caressing its indifferent skin,
and whispering sweet nothings
in its foul ears?
Would you kiss a corpse
as you court its forgiveness?
prayer is wind
scented by rot
and the world is breathless
with the stench of it.
Next time you think to pray
to a god
or an angel
or a demon,
save your breath,
and save mine,
and say nothing at all.
You are attracting flies
with every futile word.
I will tell you what prayer is,
for it is many things,
and simultaneously it is nothing.
Prayer is a
hand-me-down doll
in a stillborn’s crib;
lifelessness cuddling
Prayer is
an isle of corpses
floating in the Dead Sea—
aimlessly drifting, meaningless
in a land where Lazarus
remains entombed.
Prayer is a gale
in the sail of a ghost ship
following a dim star
already dead in the night sky.
Prayer is rain in a yard of ash
where fire once burned
and a house once stood;
it is the insurance policy signed
when the embers are cold
and the bank account is empty.
It is the ghost of a saint
on a postcard stained
with martini and lipstick and
cycling the dead letter circuit,
the addressee unable to
mark it “Return To Sender”.
Prayer is the security blanket
on your child’s bed;
it is
the nightlight
in the corner of the room
eclipsed by that terrible shadow
as a monster emerges
from within the closet
and gobbles your children up
while they sleep peacefully
and dream your religion’s dreams.
Prayer is the bookmark
on the last page of a biography
closed for the final time.
It is when you
stare down a tiger
with an empty chamber in your gun.
It is a message in a bottle
lost in the Mariana Trench
surrounded by sea slugs,
goggle-eyed fish, and
insensate invertebrates
idiotically mouthing bubbles
in imitation of your own words;
mouthing words of condolences
like gawking fish
drowning in open air.
Prayer is the backfire
and the exhaust fumes
of a jalopy finally starting
on the hundredth try,
the hour being too late
to get granny to the hospital.
At best
prayer is CO2 gas
feeding flowers
so they might grow beauty
in the graveyard;
beauty enough
to cover the ugliness of death.
Prayer is the
passive order
of execution
passed down by millions a day,
their hands clasped powerfully together
in devout, godlike

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