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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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RIDING THE  PRAYERS

 

 

 

It was always a sunny evening,

when tin cup voices banged the air

and we would be saying the rosary,

chanting the circled chain of beads.

We each had our place to kneel,

leaning into her orange couch,

hands clasped, heads down,

their other child already lost.

 

She would lead us along

one link at a time, the small

Hail Mary stones announcing

‘blessed is the fruit of thy womb’,

bowed heads accepting

the decree of ‘thy will be done’

held in the onyx Our Father stones,

mouthing the words, climbing the steps

with my father up the slope of each prayer,

drawing breath at the peak and 

sliding the admonitions to the end.

 

Up and down in see-saw cadence,

I counted the tinseled threads

woven in the couch fabric,

scouring the prayers for rhymes

as she beseeched her god

and I folded our promises

into the laughing voices outside,

the pieces of her vision grinding

to dust, shards crushed

in the spinning gears of a clock

she wound with her bleating voice.


                                    —Mark Burke



HANDBOOK


 

She gave her a home-made guide,

a handbook of collected wisdom

gathered to help her child

across the plains of marriage;

how to build a home and bring

a godliness there, a small book

she could carry with her, pages

on the slow simmer of beef stock,

how to ease the flavor out;

paragraphs on stain removal

and the safe way to make preserves,

how to bargain, how to save something

from each day for a time when

it would be needed more than ever.

 

But there were no passages

that described touching,

how to rub his shoulders

and lean into his back

kindling the heat, how to graze

against him until he longed

for the salve of her weight;

no cautions how at first

it would be the huff and growl

of strange words in the dark

and when the toll of time and children

sends a mind scavenging,

how her touch would keep him

and sprout the root again,

grown to her light.

 

                                           —Mark Burke


 

 

 WHERE DOES IT GO

 

               


The tremors come again rattling

the box where I saved the pieces

and the scents escape; our first walk

in the garden, the grace of eyelids,

the summer you’d leave the door

unlocked and I’d find you waiting,

a hush falling like a gown.

 

Again, the old ground disturbed,

the shirt you’d wear strewn on the floor

as if you’d thrown it, smoldering a memory,

coals dark but still warm, songs

conjured from when you knelt

and began our faith,

your voice buried in a scar.

 

Once, when I and the one

with whom I’ve stirred my life,

went to the dark dancehall

where we used to meet, your stare

streaked across the crowd,

and wild arrows stung my face

as you spun away with your partner.

 

Where does it go, this love

we swore to uphold,

the cup that brimmed, spilled

and thrown in the grass,

coated with the dew

cold years leave,

the blooded promise that dries

to a stiff brown stain?

 

                                    —Mark Burke