PRAYER DOES NOT HAVE TO
whisper with reverence while clouds
thicken to purple in the sky.
It can percolate, chortle and climb
like Coltrane’s horn in “A Love Supreme,”
probing in fits and squawks, clearing
a path upwards, then knocking over
all stones, until there is no right
of way, no safe passage, nothing
but tympani and bass drowning
all hope in distance. I’ve been
in that room where it’s clear
the storm is on its way, where light
diminishes its chord until harmonies
fall off each other, breathless.
Let the thunder have its say. Open a door
to the sizzling wind. Trust
the score to give each note space,
each need voice, until the whole room
vibrates in half tones, raises itself
into the sky. This loud song
can find a stable key. This kind of noise
can beg light down with a cymbal’s roll.
SUMMER, BOTANY LESSON
No matter how many blossoms I point out
exploding overhead on our neighborhood walk,
my daughter isn’t buying it. She’s in love
with the sound of bougainvillea, thinks
the word’s so pretty, there’s no way
it stands for something real. She believes
I made it up, strung long vowels
and kissy, soft consonants on a strand
of rhythm to make her giggle. I wish
I could tell a story that would win
her faith, but learn to let it lie. Some truths
beg for a fight. Some would rather
echo on branches in crooked light
while you just walk off holding hands.
My uncle told us
it had been decades
since they’d grazed.
No grass on their island, they ate
fish from shallow pools,
gnawed gum from shore reeds.
In my dreams, the deer
just beyond our back fence
waiting for one of us
to slide plates of roast
and gravy under the wire.
Night passed without
a single twitch—
only moonlight, slow
breeze and wanting,
washed our grass clean.
What a slow swim
to our land
they would have had
against the gulf tide,
their snouts just above the surface,
persistent like the heads of turtles.
JACK B. BEDELL is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and Bone-Hollow, True: New & Selected Poems (Texas Review Press, 2013). He has recently been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.